Most teams play worse without their best player, but the Lynx desperately felt the absence of Sylvia Fowles Sunday afternoon as she missed her second game this week. Fowles is dealing with a calf strain that kept her from playing in Wednesday’s win over New York. Not only is Fowles a perennial All-Star, but the entire team is built around her presence both offensively and defensively.
Los Angeles took full advantage of Minnesota’s compromised defense. Without Fowles the Lynx struggled to protect the rim. Sparks guards routinely found their way into the paint and the Lynx discombobulated help defense offered little resistance. Minnesota relies on the communication of Fowles to quarterback one of the league’s best defenses. Without her on the floor botched switches and missing weak side help become more common.
The Sparks offense deserves a lot of credit as well. They were fantastic all afternoon at exploiting the soft spots in Minnesota’s defense. Candace Parker was sublime in only 28 minutes of action. She finished with 11 points, ten rebounds and nine assists. Los Angeles gave her the ball at the elbow and trusted her to make the right play. She delivered in spades either by overwhelming her opponent with her one-on-one skills or finding shooters wide open and ready to fire. Her teammates were unconscious from three as they hit 13 of their 22 attempts from long range. Los Angeles scored easily and often through the game and shot 65% from the field for the game, the third highest mark in WNBA history.
This game wasn’t necessarily the blowout the final score would insinuate. Despite playing from behind for much of the first half, Minnesota went on an 18-7 run after halftime and briefly took the lead. This was mostly spurred by the energetic play of rookie Crystal Dangerfield. The UConn product scored nine of her career-high 29 points in the third quarter. Yet again she flashed a knack for sneaking past defenders into the paint and a confidence to launch her shot from three point land. Only seven games into her professional career she looks wise beyond her years and a second round steal for the Lynx.
Overall the Sparks were the more talented and consistent basketball team. Nobody was missing shots. Especially not former Lynx Seimone Augustus (still strange to type). “Money Mone” tied her season high with 13 points off the bench. She’s at the tail end of her career but can still get it done on one end of the floor. Augustus had the outside jumper working as usual, but also put the ball on the floor and blew by Napheesa Collier for a nifty reverse layup. It must feel weird for her to match up against the Lynx. It must feel nice to beat the Lynx.
In some ways Minnesota can chalk this up to a schedule loss. The games just keep on coming every other day. Every team has to balance the importance of each game with the long term health of their players to get through this gauntlet. We saw Sunday how bad things can get when Fowles misses one game, the Lynx don’t want to experience life without her for anything more than that.
Riquna Williams was a flamethrower off the bench for LA. She scored 21 points on a perfect 5-5 from three. Los Angeles’ bench outscored Minnesota 45-5 but that’s a slightly misleading number due to the Lynx being so shorthanded.
Cheryl Reeve received her first technical foul of the season. Reeve called a timeout and walked all the way across the floor to complain to the official after an offensive foul call on Collier.
Damiris Dantas had a big first half (13 pts, three 3-pointers) before being covered much better in the second half. Dantas did attempt eight threes which is a great number from one of the team’s finest markswoman.
Only 20 team rebounds for Minnesota in this game. That’s likely one of their lowest totals in years. No Fowles + Sparks hitting every shot = only 20 rebounds.
Minnesota will be looking to get Fowles back for Tuesday’s matchup against the reigning champion Washington Mystics. Tip off is set for 8pm and you can watch on ESPN2.