Less than 24 hours after being named to her eighth All-Star game, it was announced that Minnesota Lynx captain Sylvia Fowles would be making her return after a five-game absence with a right knee cartilage injury. It was extraordinary news for the Lynx, as they’ve struggled to find their rhythm all season, mostly due to the revolving door of personnel. With both Damiris Dantas and Natalie Achonwa, who just had her best game as a Lynx, back from injury, suddenly Minnesota’s frontcourt looked unexpectedly deep.
It was evident right from the tip that the return of Fowles helped steady the ship on both ends of the court. Not only was her defensive presence in the paint forcing Phoenix to fire away from perimeter early and often, Syl’s effect on the offensive end was immediately felt. The Lynx have shot very poorly all season, but the six-foot six-inch center was immediately feasting on the offensive glass, finishing the night with a 14-point 10-rebound double-double. Even her gravity on the boards allowed her teammates to make opportunistic runs to snatch up rebounds as well, helping Minnesota score their first 12 points all from the paint.
The Mercury were able to get out to an early lead due to five of seven shooting from perimeter, but the Lynx quickly matched their pace hitting five of their own triples in the first quarter. A 12-0 run capped by a buzzer beating 30-foot bomb by Rachel Banham, helping the Lynx take a 33-25 lead after one quarter of play.
They would never look back.
Both teams would continue scoring at a blistering pace, both topping out at 57.5% shooting by halftime. The visitors leaned heavily on goading the Lynx into fouls, especially wily veteran Diana Taurasi, who finished the game 11 of 12 from the line by herself. They also enjoyed the services of Tina Charles, who exploded for a game-high 26 points tonight after being limited to just seven points in their last meeting 48 hours ago.
Meanwhile, Minnesota would attack from all directions. All five starters would go on to score 12 or more points, while all four bench players would also get in the scoring column. The trio of Achonwa, Dantas, and Shepard continued to look great operating from both the high and low posts. Moriah Jefferson, who finished with a team-high 21 points (7/11 FG) and Rachel Banham both effectively pushed the pace. The former shared her thoughts during the halftime interview, “We’re just sharing the ball - Nobody’s being selfish.”
The biggest highlight of the night was when Fowles would dupe the pair of aforementioned former MVPs on a fake handoff before driving to the rim hard, elevating like she was going to throw one down.
A 12-point lead at halftime would never truly get into a dangerous territory for the home team. There would be a few times where the Mercury would crawl as close as seven, but their lackadaisical effort on both ends of the court would continually make it impossible for them to fully battle back. There were a number of careless turnovers and botched defensive rebounds that you would not expect from a veteran team like this, especially considering their season-long struggles.
Ultimately, Kayla McBride would hit a dagger three pointer with 2:06 remaining to keep the lead at 12. Despite a small comedy of errors by the Lynx to end a very long final minute of the game, they’d put Phoenix out of their misery thanks to their cold perimeter shooting. An astonishing 42-23 advantage on the glass was evident of the type of night it was.
IT'S JUST WHAT SHE DOES ♀️ pic.twitter.com/agitdNv4wD— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 24, 2022
Fowles shared during her postgame interview that scoring as a collective was key to their victory. Though that’s easier said than done, bringing the best center of all-time back on the floor, as well as two of her veteran running mates, was a big factor in how the Lynx cracked the 100-point barrier for the first time this season. “We picked up like we never left off,” said Fowles. “This is a totally different game from our first couple games.”
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as the Lynx continue to move forward in their effort to turn this season around.
The Lynx hit the road again, visiting the defending champion Chicago Sky on Sunday 6/26 @ 5:00pm CT. They’re currently sitting at number two in the standings after throttling the Sparks 82-59 tonight. In their earlier matchup against Minnesota, Chicago survived a late Lynx run to win 82-78.