WNBA season in review: Minnesota Lynx sputter in Sylvia Fowles’ farewell

(David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time since 2010, the Minnesota Lynx end the season outside the playoffs.

The Lynx had an opportunity to clinch a spot after surging late in the season, but they were unable to close it out in their season finale against the Connecticut Sun in what was ultimately Sylvia Fowles’ final game in the WNBA.

As Minnesota heads into the offseason, the team faces the unenviable task of replacing a generational talent. How will they move forward without Fowles?

Minnesota Lynx: Year in Review

What went right?

Despite starting a grisly 3-13, the Lynx rebounded in the latter half of the season, clawing their way into contention for a playoff spot. There were flashes of what the Lynx could be – including a 102-71 win over league-leading Las Vegas – but never the full package.

Sylvia Fowles was once again a bright spot for the Lynx, contributing 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while adding 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks per game in the season dubbed “Syl’s Final Ride.” Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride were right there beside her, averaging 14.4 points and 13.3 points per game respectively.

And it’s not like the Lynx didn’t lack fight. In the team’s finale against the Sun, Lindsay Allen scored a career-high 26 points on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. While missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010 in Sylvia Fowles’ final season is certainly a blow, they scrapped all the way to the end.

What went wrong?

While the Lynx ended the season with a shot at the playoffs, the slow start nearly doomed them. At 14-22, the Lynx finished just a game ahead of the Sparks (13-23). The only other team they beat out was Indiana, and the Fever went on an 18-game losing streak to end the season.

Outside of Fowles, the team’s defense was lackluster all season, which head coach Cheryl Reeve singled out as a reason why they fell short of a postseason bid.

“We are exactly where we were supposed to be,” Reeve said. “We weren’t good enough to be in the playoffs.”

Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride, who were signed to the team in an attempt to gain a scoring edge, averaged 38% and 40% from the field.

And while Napheesa Collier made it clear she intended to play with Fowles one last time – and worked her way back 74 days after giving birth – the fact that she was back in the starting lineup and averaging 22.8 minutes per game to end the season showed the team’s desperation as much as her grit.

Looking forward

With Fowles setting off into retirement, eyes will turn to Collier as the next franchise leader.

And while it is nearly impossible to replace a player of Fowles’ caliber, the Lynx have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery, which will give them the best possible chance to bring in a new face of the franchise.