Minnesota falls in the second round of playoffs as Chicago outperforms the Lynx 89-76 to secure a semifinals spot
Chicago has Minnesota’s number. In all three meetings this season against the Lynx, the Sky scored 80 or more points, including Sunday’s 89-76 victory in the second elimination game of the day, coming after Phoenix won at Seattle. The Sky and the Mercury both head to the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.
“We didn’t get it done in all three games,” Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters afterward of her team’s defensive efforts in the trio of meetings against the Sky, who scored over 100 points in their first meeting and amassed 95 in their only loss to the Lynx this season (101-95).
The Sky, now 2-0 in one-and-done postseason play, knocked off the third-seed hosts by virtually dominating every aspect of the game Sunday.
Turnovers: The Lynx turned the ball over 20 times, and Chicago scored 22 points off them.
Points in the paint: Chicago almost doubled their hosts, outscoring Minnesota 48-32. The Sky virtually bottled up the middle after halftime, holding Lynx center Sylvia Fowles to a couple of touches in the decisive second half after the 6-6 veteran had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Fowles only had four points (1-1 FG, 2-2 FTs) the rest of the game before she fouled out for the first time this season with 50 seconds left.
“Sylvia is a tough guard. We were trying to make it tough as possible. Everybody got their turn (guarding) her,” reported Chicago forward Candace Parker.
Bench points: The winning bench outscored Minnesota’s 20-8, led by Diamond DeShields, who had 14 points. She was one of five Sky players in double figures. Courtney Vandersloot scored 15 of her team-high 19 points in the second half.
Fast break points: Chicago had 22 to Minnesota’s 4.
“They controlled the game,” bemoaned Reeve. “It sucks.”
Minnesota forward Aerial Powers led all scorers with 24 points, but she also committed six turnovers, tied with Kayla McBride, who had 19 points. Fowles, who earlier in the day was honored as the 2021 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth time in her 14 seasons, finished with 17 points, eight boards, two blocks, and a steal.
Although it was a frustrating night, Reeve still praised her center’s effort Sunday: “Syl never quit on anything,” noted the coach.
The Lynx got a subpar performance from forward Naphessa Collier (8 points on 3-for-11 shooting): “I wanted to help the team, and I didn’t,” she admitted. And zero points from guard Layshia Clarendon, who took and missed her only shot in 11 minutes, coming into Sunday’s game as questionable with a right fibula injury that kept them out seven of the team’s last eight games.
Minnesota struggled all night in finding any offensive flow and rhythm, which Chicago had a lot to do with. But the home team was also without a healthy Clarendon, who the Lynx won 16 of their 22 games with after signing the nine-year veteran guard to two hardship contracts after New York waived them in late May.
“We were a different team when Lay is healthy,” reaffirmed Reeve. “It was one of the better stories in the WNBA.”
Chicago now plays at top seed Connecticut Tuesday in Uncasville, Connecticut, in the playoff semifinals.
“I think we are catching fire at the right time,” said Sky head coach Wade after speaking to the press.
“I’m just excited that we finally get the chance to play in the semifinals to show what we are made of. I’m excited about that, and we are just looking forward to playing our brand of basketball.”