July 23, 2022
Sylvia Fowles channels her 2015 self in one final duel with the Indiana Fever
Fowles recalled beating Indiana in the 2015 Finals: 'It was so gritty'
The 2015 WNBA Finals was a duel between two of the stronger franchises in the league during the early 2010s, the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx.
The teams had met in the 2012 WNBA Finals, and Indiana had emerged victorious. Between that series and the 2015 replay, both squads made consecutive trips to their respective conference finals, and the Lynx won the 2013 title.
The 2015 Finals was setting up to be an epic rematch, and the Fever were hoping to be crowned champions again. But there was a key difference between the 2012 Lynx and the 2015 Lynx that was going to make the 2015 series much, much more challenging for Indiana: The 2015 team had Sylvia Fowles.
Fowles spent the first seven seasons of her career in Chicago, but a midseason trade in 2015 sent her to the Lynx. She elevated the franchise immediately, teaming up with Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus to provide the necessary star power to bring the team back to the Finals. Minnesota beat Indiana 3-2, and Fowles kicked Indiana’s collective butts, averaging 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and winning Finals MVP.
“I actually watched her dominate,” Fever head coach Carlos Knox recalled of that 2015 series. Knox was a player development coach for Indiana at the time.
Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota’s head coach for the last dozen seasons, remembers Fowles’ 2015 Finals performance similarly. “What I remember is how dominant Syl was,” Reeve said. “The Indiana Fever in that season had a hard time defending [shots from] one to five feet. So it was set up perfectly for Syl, because obviously she’s terrific.”
Throughout her career, Fowles put up big numbers against Indiana often, averaging 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Like many players, however, she struggled to find success in Indianapolis, going 7-14 in games played in the Circle City during her career, per Across The Timeline.
Fowles’ final game in Indy was on July 15, and she was honored before the game. Lin Dunn, the Fever’s current interim general manager, was Indiana’s head coach during the 2012 title run and coached against Fowles often. They shared a moment pregame before the Fever took on the Lynx in Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The Lynx went on to win 87-77, with Fowles contributing 22 points and 12 rebounds. It was the perfect summation of the eight-time All-Star’s career of success against Indiana. The legendary post player spoke to The Next after the game about her battles against the Fever, the 2015 Finals and having younger players look up to her.
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The Next: What do you remember, now that it’s your last game in Indy, about playing here throughout your career and going against Tamika Catchings so many times?
Sylvia Fowles: How hard it was. It was so gritty to play at Indiana. The fans were freaking amazing; they always made it a hard place to play. And the place just showed so much grit. You knew you weren’t going to go in there and just take a win. There’s going to be a dogfight every night. And those are some things that I remember most about playing here.
TN: I asked Sue [Bird] about it, and she said that it always felt like you accomplished something when you beat Indiana throughout your career. Do you have a similar experience?
SF: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I give it that much thought. I think in the moment, I’m just worried about, “How can I play well?” And sometimes, some games are harder than some, some are easier than some. But at the end of the day, I just want to win.
TN: What do you remember about the 2015 Finals against this team, in this city, [winning Finals] MVP?
SF: Crazy. Loud, couldn’t hear. The fans here were unbelievable. And the atmosphere was great for women’s basketball. You can always appreciate a gym that’s trying to rally their team to victory. It was fun. It was so much fun.
TN: This Fever team, especially Queen Egbo, Carlos Knox has [told them], “Watch tape of Sylvia Fowles to get better.” For you in your last year, what’s it like to hear something like that and have that impression, especially on a younger Fever team like this?
SF: It’s very humbling to know that this younger generation is hungry. And that’s something that I really do appreciate about them, because they show a lot of grit. It’s just, I guess, a credit to myself of the things that I’ve done over the last couple of years. But these young women are talented. And if they can add some grit [from] somebody that’s been here for a long time and know how to do it, they’re going to last a super long time.
TN: Do you think about, when you leave games like this, “That was my last game in that city or this city or wherever”? Or do you try to skip over that?
SF: I try to skip over it because I know I’m gonna be emotional. And you can’t be emotional but so many times. I don’t want to be a crybaby. But at the same time, too, I let these emotions come. I try not to let them overpower me at some point because they do take you out of your game. But I’m very appreciative of the things that I’ve done here and how this Indiana organization treated me every time I came here. Those things I never want to take for granted.
TN: Do you have any relationship with [Catchings] now? Or do you guys ever talk?
SF: We don’t talk daily, but when we see each other, it’s like we never missed a beat. Yes.
TN: Cheryl [Reeve] remembered in that 2015 Finals, [Indiana] just had no one to defend you down low. And that’s what made you go have such a good series. Do you remember it similarly? Do you remember any game-planning for that Fever team?
SF: I don’t remember it quite as Cheryl does. I felt like everybody was on me, somewhat similar to the first half today. I felt like every time I touched the ball, you just had three people there. Sometimes, you know, you have to step back a little bit and appreciate the things that you’ve done. If they’re going to send three people at you, that’s credit to yourself. But at the same time, you also have to score. That’s what I remember about the 2015 team. I didn’t feel like I got easy looks in 2015. I felt like it was hard.
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Other notes from Sylvia Fowles’ final game in Indiana
- As mentioned in the conversation with Fowles, Knox has been telling rookie center Queen Egbo to watch tape of Fowles in order to improve. “Every single day I tell Queen that … I just want our younger rookies to be sponges,” he said.
- Fowles made time for everyone after the game — fans, family, players and even a short chat with a security official. She also had conversations with both of the Fever players who have been her teammates in the past, rookie wing Rennia Davis and veteran point guard Danielle Robinson. Davis was drafted by the Lynx in 2021, but she was released earlier this season and signed with Indiana. Robinson and Fowles were teammates for two full seasons, in 2018 and 2019, that both resulted in the Lynx reaching the playoffs.