September 20, 2021
Why Layshia Clarendon’s return mattered Sunday, and beyond
Point guard contributed at both ends in return
After missing the last six games due to a right fibula injury, Layshia Clarendon (he/she/they) was just happy to be there.
“I felt good, it was really fun,” Clarendon said postgame, after returning to the starting lineup and helping Minnesota secure an 83-77 win over Washington. “I just love this team so much. It was nice to be on the court again and play basketball.”
Although Clarendon’s time on the court was below their 24.7 minutes per game average, they made the most of their minutes and the Lynx benefited from it.
“Layshia’s minutes, the 15:35 that they played [was] very, very productive,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “[She] just did simple things that you hope for. She found 6 assists and is always in there defensively with some physicality and with an energy and an effort that is really helpful to the group. And then Lay’s ability to get fouled a little bit, [to] make a couple shots, is just really helpful.”
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Along with his 6 assists, Clarendon grabbed one steal and scored 8 points, shooting 3-for-7 and 100% from the free-throw line.
In the final minutes of the game, Clarendon’s free-throws helped the Lynx edge up their lead on the Mystics.
“It’s two free throws — this is what you practice all the time constantly,” Clarendon said. “Those are the moments you’re gonna face in a game five in the playoffs [or] in a single elimination [game] where you’re up and a team is desperate and they’re trying to beat you. And you gotta knock down those free throws to extend your lead in the game.”
Their steal came in the final seconds of the game, after snagging a lost ball and lobbing it to the other half of the court to Aerial Powers, who was fouled and earned a trip to the free-throw line, helping to seal the win for the Lynx.
The Lynx final win of the regular season eliminated the Washington Mystics from the playoffs while securing the three seed for the Lynx. The stakes were high and the Lynx took advantage of the opportunity to play in a competitive game ahead of the playoffs.
“We got the ability to play a playoff game instead of playing a team who maybe didn’t really have anything to lose, and the energy’s kind of bad, and we’re just kind of grinding through it,” Clarendon said. “That was a single elimination game right there. You don’t get any more close to playoff experience than that.”
The Lynx head into the playoffs with a first-round bye and will play in the second-round single elimination game on September 26 against the worst remaining seed in the field.