Powers scores career-high 32 points as Lynx stomp Aces 102-71

That Aerial Powers scored 32 points Sunday at Target Center could not have been more perfect.

Forget, for the moment, the dominant 102-71 pummeling the Lynx handed the Las Vegas Aces. The season high in points, the 52 rebounds (15 offensive), the 26 assists, the 12 made threes. The fact the Lynx have now won four of six games. Or that, in handing the Aces their worst loss of the season, and knocking them out of first place, the Lynx held the Aces to a season low in points.

On the day Rebekkah Brunson’s No. 32 was raised to rafters, the Lynx did their best to blow the building’s roof off. Before the game Powers promised Brunson, now a Lynx assistant coach, that she would have a big night. Whether she promised a career-high 32, exactly, is open to question.

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” Powers said.

Does it matter?

The fact is the Lynx (7-15) did so many things that Brunson did while winning five WNBA title rings. They played defense — the Aces shot 36.8%. They rebounded — doubling up the Aces, holding Las Vegas to two offensive rebounds.

And they persisted. After Powers scored 14 points in Minnesota’s 33-15 first quarter, the Lynx never faltered. Every time the Aces (15-6) threatened to make it a game, the Lynx responded. They ended the first half on a 5-0 run after the Aces cut it to nine. They finished the third quarter 11-1 after Kelsey Plum’s three-point play had made it a 13-point game.

“It was fun to watch,” Brunson said.

And it’s getting better.

The Lynx are on an offensive tear of late, and have begun mixing in some defense. Coach Cheryl Reeve said it was important for her team to see what can happen, against an upper-echelon team, when it plays at its best. The Lynx are now 137-5 since 2011 when holding a team under 40% shooting.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Reeve said. “Are we starting to understand what it takes? Yes. I like where we are.”

The Lynx got 34 points off the bench, led by Rachel Banham’s 13. Moriah Jefferson had 13, too. Ten Lynx players scored.

But this was Powers’ show. Or, Powers’ mission. After a 1-for-7, five-point game Friday in a 91-85 loss to the Aces, Powers was determined to do more. At morning shootaround, Reeve challenged her to do more.

So she did more. She had 14 points in the first quarter, 19 by half. And she didn’t slow down. She got to the line 12 times. She had six rebounds, four assists. At one point she flexed for the crowd. Another time she high-fived a young fan after a big play. She drew two flagrant fouls.

“I felt I’d let the team down last game,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ll be aggressive. I’ll be locked in.'”

She was. But then, so was everyone else. Nine of the 10 who played had a rebound, nine of the 10 had an assist. Defense? Friday, Aces starters scored 80 points. Sunday, 49.

“We’ve had our struggles,” Powers said. “But now we’re starting to turn a corner. To beat a team like that, the way we did? It shows you where our team can go.”

And to do it on a night when Brunson’s number was retired? She had her wife and son and about 15 other family members there watching.

“They went out and played so well, so hard, I’m so happy for them,” Brunson said. “I would like for them to go ahead and keep that energy and move on through the season.”

OK. First-place Chicago will be here Wednesday. But there was still some time to savor what happened Sunday.

“It’s great how we played so well for her,” Banham said of Brunson. “And how AP had 32 points, [Brunson’s] number. It’s weird how that worked out. But I’m really glad it did.”

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