Napheesa Collier returns, Lynx beat Dream 81-71 to stay in playoff hunt

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Napheesa Collier made her season debut for Minnesota, Kayla McBride scored 20 points and the Lynx used a fourth-quarter run to defeat the Dream 81-71 on Sunday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Collier, Minnesota’s leading scorer (16.2 per game) last season, played for the first time since she gave birth to her daughter, Mila, in late May. The 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year finished with six points in 21 minutes.

Atlanta (14-19) fell into a tie with the Phoenix Mercury for the eighth – and final – playoff spot with a week remaining in the regular season – a half-game ahead of the New York Liberty (13-19) and a game in front of Minnesota (13-20) and the Los Angeles Sparks (13-20).

Aari McDonald and Rhyne Howard scored 16 points apiece for Atlanta, and Cheyenne Parker added 12 points – all in the first half. Maya Caldwell and Naz Hillmon each scored 10 points.

Moriah Jefferson hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points, Rachel Banham scored 12 and Sylvia Fowles added eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Fowles moved past Brittney Griner into third in WNBA history with 718 career blocks.

The Dream missed six consecutive field-goal attempts during a 10-0 run that gave Minnesota a 70-59 lead with seven minutes to play after Collier converted a three-point play and, 32 seconds later, McBride hit a 3-pointer. Caldwell made a 3-pointer to snap Atlanta’s scoring drought of three-plus minutes.

Natalie Achonwa answered with a three-point play before Banham made a pull-up jumper to give the Lynx a 75-62 lead with 5:28 remaining.

Minnesota had 26 assists on 31 field goals and made 12 3-pointers.