While heat waves have consumed many parts of the United States these last few weeks, no place has been hotter than wherever the Minnesota Lynx are playing basketball.
After starting their 2021 season 0-4, Cheryl Reeve’s team has been on a scintillating run over the last six weeks, winning 10 of their last 13 games (including a five-game winning streak) as they entered their weekend matchup against the Las Vegas Aces. Minnesota’s hot streak didn’t cool down in the desert Friday night, as they thoroughly outplayed and outperformed their opponent in route to a 77-67 victory, increasing their league-leading winning streak to six games.
The Aces were without the services of their center Liz Cambage (who is currently training with the Australia Women’s team as they prepare for the 2021 Olympics), which zapped the fans of yet another star-studded duel between her and Sylvia Fowles. Despite missing the anchor to their front court, Las Vegas still had plenty of talented cards up their sleeves on Friday night, led by Kelsey Plum and A’ja Wilson, who combined for 31 points against the Lynx.
And yet, Cambage or no Cambage, Friday night’s result seemed inevitable one way or another as the Lynx continued to show why they are a real threat to contend for (yet another) WNBA title later this fall. Led once again by fan-favorite Layshia Clarendon (who finished the game with 18 points and 9 assists), Minnesota jumped out to an early 33-18 lead after the first quarter, and while their offensive production cooled over the last three quarters, it was their defense that brought them to the finish line, holding the Aces to just 30 combined points in the second half.
Layshia Clarendon has been phenomenal fighting over screens tonight, while Kayla McBride has done a great job playing up the line to deny skip passes and hand-off actions.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 10, 2021
On a night when A'ja Wilson is struggling, the perimeter pressure has prevented LVA from finding a rhythm.
Aside from Clarendon, the Lynx also got strong contributions from starters like Fowles and Damiris Dantas, both of whom tallied 14 points and 9 rebounds, respectively.
In addition to winning their sixth-straight game, the big story from Friday night’s victory was Minnesota’s performance from the free throw line (or lack thereof):
Tonight's @minnesotalynx win marks just the 2nd time a WNBA team has finished a game without a free throw attempt.— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) July 10, 2021
The first came from the Washington Mystics on July 7, 2003.
The Lynx are the first team to win without a free throw attempt.https://t.co/Yu5TAWAD5r
As mentioned above, the Lynx became the second team in WNBA history to finish a game without a single free throw attempt, and the first team in WNBA history to win a game without taking a shot from the charity stripe.
Like many of you, I’ve watched a lot of professional basketball over the years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something as crazy as a team winning by double-digits despite being outshot at the free throw line 19-0. Major credit to Coach Reeve and her team for not letting this type of disparity distract them from winning the game, but as Phee mentioned late last night, let’s agree to not make this a regular thing, sound good WNBA?
However they would be appreciated https://t.co/fzyK4sjOD6— napheesa collier (@PHEEsespieces) July 10, 2021
As she always does, Cheryl summed up the free throw situation perfectly in her postgame press conference:
"The other team lost, so I feel great."— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 10, 2021
Cheryl Reeve on what it feels like to coach the second team in WNBA history to not shoot a free throw in a game. #CantTameUs
The Lynx now have one last game on their schedule (Sunday in Los Angeles) prior to the Olympic break. Winning their last six games has vaulted Minnesota into 4th place in the WNBA standings, and while injuries have been a common theme for many of their opponents, it’s also worth noting that the Lynx themselves have been without Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa.
Not to mention the Lynx are still playing without Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 10, 2021
Lynx are undoubtedly the best team in the W right now. https://t.co/nbMB6YOIlX
While the start of the 2021 season was less than desirable for Minnesota, the Lynx are starting to click on all cylinders entering the break, and it’ll be fascinating to see if they can continue this momentum when the season kicks off again in mid-August. If they can, we could very well be looking at another deep postseason run for Cheryl Reeve and her squad.
FINAL: Lynx 67, Aces 57— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 10, 2021
The winning streak is now at 6.
Clarendon: 18 pts, 9 ast, 5 reb
Fowles/Dantas: 14 pts, 9 reb each
McBride: 10 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast
Collier: 7 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl
Wilson: 13 pts on 15 FGA
Plum: 18 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast
Hamby: 12 pts, 9 reb
Full stats ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/5TXkl8iBV5