The first quarter hasn’t been kind to the Lynx this season. They’ve had some bad starts. None as bad as Thursday night when Sylvia Fowles tweaked the right calf that had been bothering her for over a week. It happened in the game’s first 90 seconds. Fowles was immediately subbed out and did not return.
As you can imagine, it was a big blow to the Lynx who have struggled to defend well without Fowles on the floor. Especially against a big, interior-minded team like Las Vegas. Minnesota’s defensive miscues were numerous, particularly in help situations when Aces would get into the paint. Also the Lynx failed to defend without fouling. Las Vegas shot 21 free throws in the game, many of which were “and-1” situations. After the game Napheesa Collier outlined what will be necessary without the all-world defense of Fowles.
“A lot of team defense,” Collier said. “Syl is great for us on both ends but on defense she’s such a long body its hard people to go against her. She’s a great defender so its hard to shoot over her. Obviously we don’t have another person like her on our team. So we’re going to (need) a lot of team defense, helping in the paint and making sure we have the backside covered.”
Angel McCoughtry and A’ja Wilson were simply too much for the Lynx to handle. McCoughtry had an explosive first half where she scored 15 of her 21 points. She’s such a savvy player who was disruptive on both ends of the floor. Wilson scored a game-high 23 points and also added eight rebounds. She took high quality shots all night and Minnesota didn’t have an answer for her. She’s been one of the three best players in basketball all season.
The Aces won this game with their defense. Even without Liz Cambage they have terrifying defensive personnel this season. They’re so solid in the interior that players like Kayla McBride and McCoughtry can gamble (pun intended), jump passing lanes and go the other way for two points. The Lynx looked shellshocked for most of the first half after losing Fowles. The size and tenacity of the Vegas defense was overwhelming at times.
Despite being down 19 points at halftime Minnesota kept things interesting with a 11-4 run to end the third quarter. However that run did not carry over into the fourth quarter as the Aces scored eight straight points to regain ultimate control of the game. Using a number of mini scoring bursts the Lynx didn’t allow this one to enter blowout territory. However they never crested the double digit deficit to make the contest truly interesting.
The battle for second place goes to Las Vegas! They have now won six straight games and look like they deserve title contender status. The Lynx still have to be happy with their record thus far, but now things get tough. The team will undoubtedly be conservative with Fowles’ recovery. Unfortunately Minnesota now has a three game sample size of playing without her. They’ll have to play much better than they have thus far or their fall in the standings could be steep.
Odyssey Sims made her 2020 debut. She logged nearly 15 minutes off the bench and looked like a player who was playing five on five for the first time in nearly a year. Sims struggled with timing issues and some bad ball handling. She also threw a couple nice assists to rolling bigs.
Crystal Dangerfield has a signature move: the lefty in and out dribble. It puts the defender on the wrong foot and allows her to sneak in for the finish. She’s used it a number of times this season and it’s surprisingly effective.
This game marked the momentous occasion of two podcast hosts facing off in a professional basketball game. Collier and Wilson have started a new show and it is an enjoyable listen filled with bubble life updates, hoops talk and debate about banana bread. Go check out “Tea with A and Phee” wherever you get your podcasts.
On Saturday the Lynx face the New York Liberty for the second time in as many weeks. Minnesota defeated New York 92-66 last Wednesday without Fowles. Can they do it again? Tip off is 5pm CT.
Watch: CBS Sports, Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Go