September 28, 2021 

Why season ended early for Minnesota

'For whatever reason, we can't stop Chicago in the paint'

With less than a minute left in the 4th quarter, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles headed to the Minnesota Lynx bench. Fowles had just fouled out of the game and the Lynx were about to be eliminated from the playoffs.

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A visibly emotional Fowles watched on as the final seconds of the game concluded and the Chicago Sky eliminated the Minnesota Lynx in the second-round of the WNBA playoffs.

When asked what was going through her mind in those moments, Fowles told reporters, “We missed the opportunity and it sucks to be in that position, to not be able to be on that court. That’s what was going on [through] my mind in that moment.”

In a one-and-done game, the Lynx came up short and Chicago took advantage.

“We spent a couple days on focal points and what was important — obviously it was going to be the team that was going to be able to take away the paint,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And it was Chicago and it wasn’t the Lynx. And that’s why Chicago is advancing and the Lynx are not.”

The battle inside was vital for a Lynx victory, but Chicago got the best of them, outscoring the Lynx 48-32 in the paint.

“We didn’t get it done in any of the three games that we played these guys [this year]. For whatever reason, we can’t stop Chicago in the paint. We had three shots at it and we didn’t get it done in any three of the games,” Reeve said.

The Lynx also struggled to get second chance points, recording zero offensive rebounds in the third quarter and only four fast break points. The Sky ran up the score with 22 fast break points.

Layshia Clarendon (7) is guarded Courtney Vandersloot (22) in the second-round single-elimination game vs. the Chicago Sky on Sept. 26, 2021. Photo Credit: John McLellan

A healthy Layshia Clarendon (he/she/they) was another missing factor for the Lynx. Clarendon, who missed seven of the last eight regular season games with a right fibula injury, played limited minutes due to the same injury. 

Clarendon was the spark the Lynx needed to course correct after a rough start to the season. His presence on the court was visibly missed as the Lynx struggled to physically challenge Chicago.

“I loved everything Lay did for us and was for us,” Reeve said. “We were a different team when Lay’s healthy and running things. [She] gives us our physicality, our intelligence, maybe gets us to the paint a little more…I’m thrilled that things worked out as well as they did. It was one of the better stories of the WNBA season where someone else’s discarded [player] became our treasure.”

Coach Reeve also shared that Clarendon spoke to the team postgame, expressing her appreciation for her Lynx teammates providing an environment that welcomed them with open arms after they were waived by the LIberty at the beginning of the season

“And, obviously, [they were] equally important for us,” Reeve said.

During the regular season, Clarendon averaged 5 assists, 3 rebounds and shot 78.4% from the charity stripe. They’ve been vital for so many of Minnesota’s victories in the regular season, including their performance in the last regular season game against the Washington Mystics which helped the Lynx secure the third seed.

“Lay is very passionate about the game and that stood out I think for all of us when she came to the team and really just helped our team turn over a new leaf,” Aerial Powers said. “We’re happy that she’s a Lynx. While she was talking, it was very emotional but overall we’re happy that she’s here.”

“At the end of the day, Lay gave us what she could and for that I’m always appreciative,” added Fowles. “We knew Lay was gonna come in and give what she got and so it was up to us to carry Lay at that point.”

Despite a disappointing ending and a playoff run cut too short, Minnesota’s players are looking forward to building on what they accomplished this past season.

‘“I think we have a good group and Sylvia touched on it, we work hard,” Powers said. “It sucks that this is a single elimination game and we didn’t come out on top, but we’ll just use that as fuel for next year. And I think the results will be different.”

Written by Alyssa Graham

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