Minnesota falls for the second-straight game to the first place Sun
Following one of their worst performances of the season on Tuesday, the Lynx had a chance for redemption with a rematch against the Sun on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. In order to lessen the burden of travel during a worldwide pandemic the WNBA schedule features numerous situations where the same two teams face each other in consecutive games. This offers a chance for a playoff-like “series” scenario where adjustments and counteraction strategy can come into play. So far this year the results in these series have been mixed for the Lynx. They’ve been swept by Seattle, won both against Atlanta and Phoenix, split with Dallas. This week they were swept again, this time by the Connecticut Sun.
While Minnesota did play better than their disappointing effort earlier in the week, they had no answer for the Sun’s suffocating defense. Despite losing a member of the 2020 WNBA All-Defensive First Team in Alyssa Thomas, the Sun are easily the best defensive team in the league this year. Much like the Lynx they get it done with size, length, effort and cohesion. Unlike the Lynx, Connecticut is air-tight when guarding pick and roll action. They fight through screens, surprise the ball handler with traps and hard hedges and just generally make it hard for their opposition to gain an advantage.
Jonquel and Brionna Jones (front runners for MVP and Most Improved awards respectively) are key to the Sun’s elite ability to seal off the paint. Standing 6’6”, Jonquel is a deterrent at the rim. Any player that does succeed at breaking the lane will likely have their shot altered or blocked by the beastly Bahamian. Lynchpin of the Lynx offense Sylvia Fowles was able to be more effective than Tuesday scoring 18 points on 12 shots and pulling down 11 rebounds. Also Minnesota outscored Connecticut in the paint 36-24, but it didn’t come easy. More importantly, the Lynx couldn’t get their offensive flow going for the second straight game. The Sun took away the subsequent cutting and three pointers typically generated by Minnesota getting the ball into the lane.
Thursday’s game was more competitive than the lopsided affair on Tuesday. The matchup featuring two scrappy, high-level defenses was a rock-fight at times. Minnesota forced 19 Connecticut turnovers but only cashed them in for 18 points. Layshia Clarendon was an unexpected offensive weapon for Minnesota. They were able to push the ball in transition and be creative with their ability to get to the rim. The former-Sun also was fantastic defensively, causing deflections and general havoc on the floor.
After winning eight in a row Minnesota has now crashed back down to earth following these dual defeats. Theres’s not much shame in losing to the now-first place Sun. Connecticut has been great all summer and their best player is having a career year on both ends of the floor. Basketball can be a game of matchups and this particular foe is a bad one for the Minnesota Lynx. With their regular season meetings completed, the Lynx know one team they do not want to see in the playoffs.
Olympian Napheesa Collier had another rough outing. In 57 minutes of action across these two games she scored just 18 total points on 7-22 shooting. Known for her versatile defense, Collier was also routinely outclassed by All-Star Dewanna Bonner.
After winning the first matchup against the Sun early in the year the Lynx have officially lost the season series against Connecticut. This is the first tie-breaker used for playoff seeding if two teams finish with the same record.
Damiris Dantas is another Lynx player that has to get back on track quickly. Her skillset unlocks the rest of the Minnesota offense, yet her confidence seems to wax and wane. On the other hand, the extremely short leash that Cheryl Reeve has her on might be a factor.
After the game Reeve, Clarendon and Collier answered every question from the media by noting the 25-10 free throw disparity in Connecticut’s favor. That number combined with the charity stripe stats from a few previous Lynx games is clearly frustrating for Minnesota. But to pin all responsibility for the loss of this game on the officials is at best missing the point, and at worse embarrassing.
Minnesota will keep the road trip going as they face another top team in Chicago on Saturday night. Tip off is set for 7pm CT and the game can be viewed on NBA TV.