June 25, 2021
How the Lynx went 2-1 on their road trip
Despite continued turnover woes, Minnesota is coming together
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
Cheryl Reeve, like McKayla Maroney, is not easily impressed. But this recent road trip did the trick.
“I’m just really impressed, especially after getting down 18 [points] I’m really impressed and proud,” Reeve said after the team’s 87-85 win against the Atlanta Dream.
Although the Lynx continue to struggle with turnovers — they gave up 21 points on 17 turnovers in their win against the Dream — the team continues to build themselves up through resiliency, Sylvia Fowles and a much-needed hustle boost from Layshia Clarendon.
Resiliency while battling turnovers
Thirteen games into the 2021 season, the Lynx are giving up an average of 20.7 points on 16.6 turnovers a game.
“We only had 14 turnovers [this game] but 23 [points] off of them, so it’s like every night we’re giving up a differential in the turnover department,” Reeve said after the 95-77 loss to the Dallas Wings.
“Turnovers are absolutely our number one thing that I think teams take advantage of. They score every time we turn the ball over. We have to get that under control,” said forward Napheesa Collier.
Points off turnovers have plagued the team all season, but despite the continued turnover woes, the Lynx are building resiliency in games.
In eight of their last nine games, the Lynx have outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter by as much as 16 points. In those nine games, the Dallas Wings were the only team to outscore the Lynx in the fourth quarter, with 21 points compared to the Lynx’s 15 points.
“We have some challenges each night – matchup-wise, athletically, putting the ball in the hole. I feel like we have a lot of factors that could go wrong and as soon as they go wrong, it’s a hard game for us to win,” said Reeve. “So we’ve got to shoot the ball better than 40%. It’s the team, or teams, that can start to improve on those weaknesses and make some strides.”
The Lynx need to find a way to come out on top early in the game, rather than climbing back from a deficit each game. But it’s good to know that if and when needed, the Lynx can come up strong in the 4th to close the gap. In their Wednesday night win against the Atlanta Dream, they clawed back from an 18 points deficit.
Layshia Clarendon brings a much-needed hustle boost
Coincidentally, those last nine games included the addition of All-Star point guard and WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon (he/she/they), who signed with the Lynx under a hardship contract at the end of May.
Although Clarendon’s contract has been terminated and re-signed several times since the first signing (to be consistent with the hardship signing rules), it’s safe to say that the Lynx view Clarendon, who is averaging 5.2 assists per game, as an essential piece to their backcourt.
“Lay’s gonna put their body on the line for you.” said Reeve, “And that’s contagious. And that’s what I’ve talked about -—I want to be physically tough and I want to be mentally tough and Layshia’s both of those.”
Clarendon has been a key factor in many of the Lynx’s wins, including their first game in a Lynx uniform against the Connecticut Sun with a near-game-winner at the end of regulation that was called back but gave the Lynx the morale boost and momentum needed to get the win in overtime.
Natalie Achonwa and Aerial Powers are out indefinitely with injuries but should either return post-Olympic break, the Lynx need to figure out how to keep Clarendon on the roster. His leadership and physicality give the Lynx an invaluable boost, helping the team win six of their nine games since Clarendon joined the roster.
Sylvia Fowles is having a year
Sylvia Fowles is averaging 16.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. She leads the league in field goal percentage with 64.0%. Fowles has four double-doubles this season and multiple games where she was just shy of a double-double.
“She’s six-six, and she literally is like Megatron,” said Reeve, referencing former Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson Jr. “When you [threw] the ball to Megatron in the endzone back, when he played, he’s so big, he’s gonna make every catch. Syl’s Megatron for us. Throw it, she’ll go get it.”
Fowles tallied her 170th double-double in the Lynx’s win against the Dallas Wings, her 78th in a Lynx uniform, with 14 points and 12 rebounds. In the team’s win against the Atlanta Dream, Fowles finished with a game-high, season-high-tying 26 points, season-high 19 rebounds, a season-high 5 blocks and 2 steals.
She is one of six players to record that stat line, joining Yolanda Griffith, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Chiney Ogwumike and Brittney Griner. She is the only player to do so twice in the regular season.
Fowles stat line has her on pace to finish the season at stats comparable to her 2017 MVP season, where she averaged 18.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
“Syl embodies everything you want her to be so her legacy is, I mean, who’s better? Who’s the best center in the history of our league? That’s her legacy. She’s the best center in the history of our league,” said Reeve.
Keeping Fowles healthy throughout the season is key for the Lynx as they look to add more wins to their record and move up in the standings.
The Lynx head back home to Target Center to face off against a Las Vegas Aces team that’s fresh off a five-game winning streak and who have had a week off from gameplay. The Aces take care of the ball with a 13.1% turnover rate, the lowest in the league. On the flip side, Las Vegas ranks 9th in the league in causing turnovers. The Lynx will need to keep unforced turnovers in check to prevent the Aces from capitalizing on free offensive attempts.