The announcement of Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier being named to the USA’s Women’s National Team was a welcome bit of good news to take the sting off an ugly 18-point loss to the Dallas Wings on Saturday. Big Syl, seemingly impervious to Father Time, will be embarking on her 4th Olympic games. Meanwhile, Phee would make her very first Olympic team and represent as the youngest member of Team USA. Last, but not least, Coach Reeve rounds out USA’s coaching staff as usual.
Celebrating a couple Olympians today.— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 21, 2021
Minnesota would also receive the news that star guard Chennedy Carter would be back in action tonight for the Atlanta Dream. Last year’s ROY runner-up had been out for 3.5 weeks due to an elbow injury she sustained vs the Liberty almost a month ago.
The youngest Minnesotan Olympian would kick the game off by putting in an and-1 just 13 seconds into the game. Her aggressiveness attacking the paint early would follow the trend that we’ve seen from the Lynx this season - Take advantages of mismatches down low. Syl would also follow suit, dominating both ends of the court without an Atlanta answer in sight. The 3x gold medalist would destroy the Dream (That sounds mean) all evening and Coach Reeve said it best in the post game Zoom:
Reeve: "She's literally like Megatron. Syl's Megatron for us. Throw it and she'll get it.— Yo SYL!!!!!!!!! (@Y0Leo) June 24, 2021
Her legacy: Who's the best center in the history of our league? She's the best center in league history." pic.twitter.com/dmtGLQCcHM
But the nightmare which has tortured the Lynx all season long would inevitably rear it’s ugly head: Turnovers.
Despite a very brief early lead, Minnesota would commit 7 turnovers in just the first 7 minutes of the game. Coach Reeve even tried to play merry-go-around with her guards, hoping to find a combination that could settle things down, but to no avail. The fiery Atlanta backcourt combated the Lynx size by shoving possessions down their throats. “Hollywood” Carter would get loose early and often. Rookie sensation Aari McDonald would pour in 10 points in her first 4 minutes off the bench. Just like that, the Lynx would be down 12 points by the end of the 1st quarter.
Not only would the turnover problems continue, but the Lynx would also go cold from the limited possessions they did have. Credit to Mike Peterson for turning the right dials to get his team humming on both ends of the court, stretching Atlanta’s lead to 18 at one point in the 2nd quarter. The visiting Lynx would be able to mitigate the damage though, thanks to a 12-2 run to end the half which was highlighted by a hilarious jump ball situation.
Funny moment:— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) June 24, 2021
Aari McDonald just contested Sylvia Fowles (No. 34 in the photo) in a jump ball.
5-foot-6 vs. 6-foot-6
Both players laughed before the ref through the ball up and Aari leaped but Fowles won it. pic.twitter.com/7olvPZgsZP
Our Brazilian Bomber, Damiris Dantas, would help the Lynx keep things competitive to start the 2nd half by netting 8 quick points. Both teams seemed to throw caution to the wind, unleashing a blistering 30-28 point 3rd quarter. The trend that seemed to develop in this period was wide open uncontested shots in the paint for Minnesota versus tough contested jumpers from Atlanta.
However to start the 4th, things seemed to get dicey for the away team. Bridget Carleton would miss 3 wide open treys as her team would follow suit. The Dream would begin overloading on Fowles in the paint and the Lynx were slow to respond. At one point during this cold streak, the Lynx found themselves down 9 while the Dream would have 3 different possessions to put themselves in position to go up by double-digits and control the game. However as we’ve seen a number of times this season, Minnesota would buckle down defensively. The contested shots that Atlanta was making during the previous quarter were now rimming out. Dantas’ continued hot shooting would help push the Lynx back into a tie game situation.
The last few minutes of the game were... grimy.
There would be some back-and-forth , but mostly back-and-back between both teams. Kayla McBride, who was
largely absent offensively for the entire game, finally showed up by cashing in 2 tough mid-range attempts late to push the Lynx up 2, twice. Her last bucket, with 1:10 remaining, would prove to be the last field goal made the entire game.
The Dream would get THREE shot attempts in a 20.6 second span in which Megatron & Co. would put on a defensively clinic (aside from effective defensive rebounding that is). Layshia Clarendon, who was a positive presence all game as usual, would run off all 24 seconds of the shot clock, milking the game as near to a close as possible, before firing off a shot attempt which she basically treated as an offensive rebounding drill, crashing the board and successfully securing the game.
WELCOME TO ATLANTA— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 24, 2021
WHERE THE PLAYERS PLAY pic.twitter.com/6CLumvqvRq
- Sylvia Fowles was nothing short of a super hero tonight. What she has done in her 2021 campaign has been extraordinary, especially on the defensive end. Big Syl put up 26/19/1 with 1 steal & 5 blocks, making her just the 2nd WNBA player to have ever put up that mark. She’s in her 13th season.
the - Olympian getting her footwork ready for Tokyo pic.twitter.com/UpNXln0130— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 23, 2021
- It was awesome to see the 2020 version of Damiris Dantas tonight! She was a big reason for why the Lynx stayed within striking distance in the 4th quarter and looked extremely confident out there. Coach Reeve said everyone, players included, need to stop thinking about the 2020 season, but I wouldn’t mind seeing these flashback performances. This was the first time all season that DD score more than 10 points, finishing with 23 points on 7/12 shooting (6/11 from deep).
DD'S SIXTH THREE OF THE NIGHT.— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 24, 2021
18-POINT DEFICIT ERASED. pic.twitter.com/OnsWzGeTm9
DD on how she feels: "I feel good, I feel so happy. I felt I need to play good, so I'm so happy and will continue to work for next game."— Yo SYL!!!!!!!!! (@Y0Leo) June 24, 2021
- There were times that Layshia Clarendon’s over aggressiveness on defense was helping Atlanta get to the line early in certain quarters, but it was a necessary evil. The trio of Courtney Williams, Chennedy Carter, and now Aari McDonald is a force to be reckoned with so if she didn’t establish herself early, it was going to be an even longer night for Minnesota. I believe Lay is on her 3rd hardship contract with Minnesota and GM Reeve is just going to have to find a way to keep her the rest of the year.
Reeve: "Layshia, leadership has been documented, but the physical toughness is something I rly enjoy w/ Lay. Sometimes it leads to being aggressive & fouling a bit... but Lay's gonna put their body on the line. I want to be physically tough & mentally tough, Lay's both of those."— Yo SYL!!!!!!!!! (@Y0Leo) June 24, 2021
- The UConn roommates Napheesa Collier (12/4/4/2/1) and Crystal Dangerfield (4/0/5/2) had their moments tonight. Phee got going early tonight, but as usual, she didn’t force things offensively when maybe she could have. Don’t get me wrong, the offensive game plan was was largely working (See Syl’s 11/16 shooting night), but a player of Phee’s talent should get more than just 9 FGA. steady as usual, but needs more plays called for her. Meanwhile, after an early but deserving hook, CD bounced back by playing an integral part of the 3rd quarter explosion. She was dropping delicious dimes left and right which would make even Ricky Rubio proud. I remain the steadfast captain of the Dangerfield Hype Train.
Phee starts the game doing Phee things. pic.twitter.com/gxK9qRmJCa— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 23, 2021
- Minnesota’s 18-point comeback was 2nd largest comeback ever. Although there’s clearly a lot this iteration of the Lynx needs to work on *cough* turnovers *cough*, the heart and grit is clearly there.
- Shoutout to Courtney Williams who yet again had an effective night scoring the ball. She drained a number of beautiful jumpers and almost singlehandedly guided the Dream to a win tonight. She finished with 24 points on 11/19 shooting. Aari McDonald’s 10 points on 4 shots came in just 7 minutes, but her size was likely to be exploited by the Lynx. Chennedy Carter also had a strong showing in her return, netting 16 points on 7/12 shooting, but also had 4 turnovers in just 26 minutes.
Minnesota has 6 more games before the Olympic break. They’ll start by returning home for a single game against the red hot Las Vegas Aces (10-3) on Friday, June 25 @ 7:00pm CT. This will be the Lynx’s first look at the 2nd place Aces who have 5 in a row (8 of their last 9) and will be coming off a whopping 8-day break.
This will be extremely tough test before they embark on a back-to-back road trip against the Phoenix Mercury after that. Whew...