It’s hard to believe, but the conclusion of the regular season is officially here, with the 32-game schedule wrapping up on Sunday and the WNBA Playoffs tipping off on Sept. 23 for the top-eight teams in the league. The Minnesota Lynx will be part of that eight-team field fighting for a championship starting next week, but their seeding for the postseason is still to be determined — they can land as high as third or as low as fifth.
Minnesota has been through quite the journey en route to earning its 11th straight trip to the postseason. With the end of another regular season, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable moments that stood out throughout the summer.
Adding Key Pieces
As the 2021 season opened, there was a reason for fans to be excited thanks to an aggressive offseason that landed a trio of free agents who have all played key roles to this point in the summer.
With a decent amount of cap space available, Minnesota signed All-Star Kayla McBride, WNBA Champion Aerial Powers, and forward Natalie Achonwa. Following those additions, the Lynx and their fan base had title hopes and aspirations once again for the first time since the successful quest to a title in 2017.
McBride has been key all year long and has been part of a dominant Big Three alongside Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier to lead Minnesota. Powers has missed most of the regular season with a few different injuries but has played well the last few weeks leading up to the playoffs. Achonwa has been a nice depth piece off the bench, backing up Fowles and previously Damiris Dantas before she went down with a season-ending ankle injury.
Along with that trio of free-agent signings, Minnesota signed Layshia Clarendon in somewhat of an unexpected move that was mainly influenced by the early-season injuries. Clarendon has provided the Lynx with a nice veteran presence and consistency at point guard with Crystal Dangerfield moving to the bench.
This year, the new faces flooding Minnesota’s roster have all played key roles thus far, and that will continue to be the case moving forward.
Recovering From a Rough Start
With new additions and high hopes going into the season, the summer started disappointingly for Minnesota after falling to the bottom of the league standings with a record of 0-4. This led to questions as to exactly what the identity of the team would be this year.
But once the Lynx got their full roster together and had a much-needed week-long break from games to practice together, they immediately turned things around and quickly became one of the hottest teams in the league while shooting up the standings. Since that 0-4 start to the year, Minnesota finished the first half of the year winners of 12 of 15 before the Olympic break contests and carried that on throughout the season.
Going into the final two games of the season with games left, including a matchup against Indiana on Friday and the season-finale against Washington on Sunday, the Lynx have gone 20-6 since that winless start to finish with an overall record of 20-10.
Lynx Represent in Tokyo Olympics
As the WNBA went on pause from mid-July to mid-August for the Tokyo Olympics, players from around the league took part in the Olympic games representing their native countries. For the Lynx, they had a total of five representatives head overseas to reside in Japan for a few weeks to try and bring home an Olympic medal.
Among the representatives for Minnesota that ended up not taking a break from the action of the WNBA regular season to head to Tokyo were Achonwa and Bridget Carleton for Canada and the trio of Fowles, Collier, and Cheryl Reeve with the United States.
Achonwa and Carleton both had strong showings with the Canadian team in three games before being sent home after not advancing. For the three Lynx on the American squad, their journey ended with yet another gold medal, which was the seventh straight time the U.S. has claimed Olympic gold.
Regardless of how many members of the Lynx took part in the Olympics, it was cool to see the passion and excitement from all five of them while taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Fowles Putting Together DPOY, MVP Campaign
Fowles is taking part in her 14th WNBA season and is set to turn 36 years old in October, so nobody expected her to have the type of season she is having, especially at this stage of her career. But Fowles has enjoyed arguably the best year of her already legendary career and has put together a strong case to take home at least the Defensive Player of the Year award and perhaps even the Most Valuable Player award.
The DPoY is more likely to occur of the two awards for Fowles, which would mark the fourth time she would claim the award (2011, 2013, 2016). She should continue to be the frontrunner to bring home that award, but she is now starting to make her way into MVP conversations throughout the league, an award she has won once in her career during the 2017 season.
Going into Friday’s game against Indiana, Fowles has averaged 16.1 points (most since 2018), 10 rebounds (most since 2018), 1.8 blocks (most since 2017), a career-high 1.8 steals, and 1.5 assists per game. She is also shooting 63.5% from the field (best since 2017) while averaging 30.3 minutes (most since 2018) a contest.
Fowles has always been a key to success for the Lynx and is a cornerstone for the team both on and off the court. But that has been the case to an even greater extent this season, her 14th.
Claiming Another Playoff Appearance, Winning Season
Despite the slow start to the season and having to deal with unexpected injuries to key players basically all year long, Minnesota has managed to weather the storm and put together an impressive summer.
With two games to try and improve their overall record, the Lynx have notched their eighth 20-plus win season in franchise history, which ranks third all-time in WNBA history behind only the Connecticut Sun (nine) and Los Angeles Sparks (13).
With another successful regular season, Minnesota will be returning to the playoffs for yet another year. On Aug. 31, the Lynx clinched a spot in the postseason, marking the 11th straight time they could accomplish that feat.
That 11-year streak is the longest active streak in the WNBA and is the second-longest span in league history behind only Indiana (2005-16).
There are, of course, plenty of things that have fed into the success for Minnesota this season. Still, it is again going to be fighting for a title starting Sept. 23, and it feels as though the Lynx could have a legitimate shot to make a deeper run in the playoffs this season.
In a year when Minnesota finally returned home to its home market and welcomed back fans to Target Center, it has nearly completed the 32-game regular-season schedule that began back in mid-May. But now, that attention turns to the next stage of the ultimate goal of bringing home another WNBA championship trophy.