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Minnesota Lynx Olympic Update

Only two Minnesota Lynx players made it through the group stage, but let’s revisit all their action!

2020 Tokyo Olympics: France v USA Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Twelve countries entered the women’s basketball tournament in the Olympics. Now, only eight remain.

The Minnesota Lynx sent a total of 4 players (and 1 coach) to Tokyo this summer and they have either survived or declined in the group stage. 4-time Olympian, Sylvia Fowles, and first-timer, Napheesa Collier, were a part of a Team USA that glided through their group unscathed. Although they finished with a 3-0 record and +37 point differential, the actual games painted a different story. Despite their seemingly dominant talent on paper, Team USA had already looked a bit off as they went 1-1 in exhibition matches (Lost to Team Australia) and even during their recent undefeated streak, they appeared to still have some rust to shake off.

Team USA Group Stage

2020 Tokyo Olympics: USA v Japan Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The United States were really only able to beat Nigeria by 9 points due to a 27-12 2nd quarter. They had to survive a 4th quarter flurry in which the D’Tigress’ (How cool is their team name???) doubled up the Americans 22-11. Next, against the host country (and heavy underdogs) Japan, Team USA found themselves trailing after the first quarter of play by 2 points (They trailed by 3 against Nigeria as well), before eventually cruising to a 17-point victory. Lastly, their matchup against Team France was a back-and-forth affair in which the United States, who trailed by 1 point with 9:05 to play, eventually scratched and clawed their way to a 11-point victory. Once again, they trailed by 3 after one quarter of play.

Team Canada Group Stage

BASKETBALL-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-CAN-KOR Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile our Northern neighbors, Team Canada, boasted 2-time Olympian Natalie Achonwa and first-timer Bridget Carleton from the Lynx squad. With a couple other WNBA players on their roster, they had reasonable optimism to earn their first medal finish. However, unlike Team USA who has a seemingly unfair talent advantage, Canada had a much bumpier ride. Their first match against Serbia was a barnburner in which BC missed 2 free throws and a layup within a 5-second span that could’ve tied the game with under 2 minutes remaining. They’d ultimately lose 68-72. However, they would regroup and refocus against Team South Korea, dominating them 74-53 before wrapping things up in a winner-moves on game against heavy favorite, Team Spain. Spain largely remained in control through 3 quarters with a 13-point lead. Although the Canadians were able to rally back within 6 on a Carleton and-1, their comeback effort would end up falling short; 66-76.

The real drama for Team Canada actually came after they finished their 3 games of group play, stuck scoreboard watching as their Olympic lives were out of their hands. The battle to advance came down to two of France, Australia, and Canada, based on total point differential. Despite losing to USA, France’s +10 point differential was still enough to eclipse Canada’s +7 PD. In the very last game of the group stage, Canada would either need Puerto Rico to beat Australia (the latter being the overwhelming favorite) or for Australia to win by < 24 points.

Similar to their male Canadian counterparts, who just missed out on the Olympics due to a Tomáš Satoranský game-winner, Carleton, Achonwa, & Co. come up short for their Tokyo goals in heartbreaking fashion.

Lynx Player Performances

Sylvia Fowles has been used sparingly (Good for us, Lynx fans!) to the tune of 11.5 minutes per game. Despite the limited minutes, Big Syl has still been extremely productive by averaging 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and .727 FG% (tied for 2nd in Tokyo). Though her Olympic experience is invaluable, she still has a lot to provide on the court and I’m expecting her to provide a few more big moments for USA.

Napheesa Collier, the youngest on the team, has understandably been regulated to the bench. She’s totaled just 2 minutes of play in just one game, only logging a missed FG and 1 foul (-8). It’s unlikely she’ll get more opportunities in the final stage of the tournament unless something totally unexpected happens, but either way this is great experience for the superstar in the making. I’m positive that she’s been soaking in valuable knowledge (and rubbing elbows!) among the league’s greatest players.

Natalie Achonwa last left the Minneapolis out indefinitely with a right MCL injury. However, the 28-year-old worked hard to rehab herself into a playable condition so she could represent her country at the Olympics. Nat, though likely far from 100%, still managed to play 23.3 mpg, tied BC with a team-high 6.0 rpg, dropped a team-high 4.0 apg, all while having her right knee heavily wrapped. In Canada’s lone victory against South Korea, she outdueled fellow WNBA big, Ji Su Park, by posting an impressive 14/10/5 line with 2 stocks to boot. What a warrior! Her contributions will be absolutely necessary if the Lynx want to make a deep run in the WNBA postseason.

Bridget Carleton emerged as a leader for Team Canada this summer next to Kia Nurse. BC logged 33.2 mpg (2nd on team) and averaging 11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds (team-high tie), 3.3 assists (2nd on team), and 1.3 steals per game. Though her shooting percentages left a lot to be desired (.154 3P% on 4.3 3PA), Carleton was her usual productive self by playing hard-nosed defense and doing all the small things. At the spry age of 24, the Lynx should feel excited for the future of this young talent!

Coming Up Next

Team USA will take on the Australian Opals on Tuesday night (8/3) at 11:40pm CT in the quarterfinals. You should be able to catch the game on CBS, but feel free to see me in the DM’s if you need help!

This game will be a rematch of the USBWNT’s lone loss about a month ago, when the Aussie’s stunned the Americans with a 70-67 victory thus breaking a 49-game Team USA winning streak. Although the game was just an exhibition so it didn’t technically count (USA is officially on a 52-game streak), there’s likely a big revenge factor for this one. The winner will advance to face the winner of China vs Serbia on Thursday, 8/5

As usual: Support women’s sports!!