Losses are illuminating events for this Minnesota Lynx team. They win so often, that when they do actually lose, it is a jarring, stark occurrence. It’s certainly interesting to see what has to take place in order for the Lynx to lose a WNBA game this season.
Sylvia Fowles had what was easily her worst game of the season. The argument could be made that this was the first truly “bad” game she’s had all year. The Lynx have played 23 games, their season is 87 days old, and only now are we seeing an off night from Fowles. A lot of her issues stemmed from the fact that she was in foul trouble for almost the entire night. Three of her five fouls on the night happened while she was posting up and committed charges. Indiana did a good job selling the contact created by Big Syl in the paint. To make matters worse, Fowles picked up her first technical foul of the season as well. That gives a glimpse into the frustration and she was feeling Sunday night.
She only played 8 minutes in the first half and finished with a season low 20 minutes. Fowles has had halves this season where she has had to spend more time than usual on the bench due to committing fouls, but this is the first time in 2017 where she has dealt with it for both halves in a single game. In Minnesota’s three losses Fowles has averaged 23 minutes per game, in their 20 wins she averages 30.1 per game. It turns out that having the consensus league MVP on the floor increases your chances of winning.
Minnesota had issues on both sides of the court in this game. On offense they didn’t take care of the ball. 21 turnovers is way too many. Live ball turnovers kickstarted Indiana and put pressure on the Lynx transition defense, a notorious weak spot for them. For the second straight game the Lynx have been cold from outside the arc. After shooting 1-14 from three on Thursday, they shot 2-13 in Indianapolis on Sunday. Without Fowles wrecking havoc in the paint, Minnesota needed a better outside shooting performance to win this game.
On defense the Lynx were a step slow and often times confused about rotations and assignments in pick and roll coverage. There were a number of occasions where Minnesota seemed to over help on the ball handler, freeing the screener to “pop” out for an open jump shot. Often times, this player was Candice Dupree. The Lynx had no answer for her as she scored a season high 31 points on 15-21 shooting. She hit shots from inside the paint and from the midrange with alarming accuracy.
The game was tight throughout the evening, with both team’s largest leads capped at six points. Minnesota was able to hang with Indiana despite Dupree’s scoring outburst by scoring 20 second chance points off their 16 offensive rebounds. They were also +9 in FTAs thanks to Maya Moore going to the line 10 times and making each of them.
The Lynx lead 82-81 with 24 seconds left after a cold blooded Seimone Augustus three. Indiana’s Marissa Coleman attempted a three point shot on the ensuing position that was blocked by Moore. Unfortunately Fever forward Erlana Larkins was able to clean up the loose ball and lay it in for the final basket of the game. Minnesota was one defensive stop away from winning the game, and came up short.
Two of the Lynx three losses have now come to surefire lottery teams. I don’t think the team is victim to playing down to their competition. The parity and competitiveness from the top to the bottom of the standings might be as good as its ever been in the WNBA.
Renee Montgomery wasn’t able to have much of an effect on this game filling in for the injured Lindsay Whalen. They’ll need her to shoot the ball better and create more opportunities in the open court. It’s interesting to me that coach Reeve went with a Jia Perkins and Augustus in crunch time. I believe it was the only stretch of the game without Montgomery or Alexis Jones in the lineup.
The WNBA has a problem with the amount of video review stoppages that occur each game. They kill momentum and flow in a sport where both are so paramount to a fun viewing experience. Hopefully changes are made for 2018.
Minnesota wraps up their two game road trip in Atlanta. They’ll try to go 3-0 against the Dream this season. The game will be televised on FSN Plus.