The Connecticut Sun closed the curtains on the Minnesota Lynx’s season on Sunday, winning at home 90-83 and handing a bittersweet defeat to future Hall-of-Famer Sylvia Fowles as she played the final WNBA game of her storied career.
“It was what you hoped wasn’t going to happen,” said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who shared a long embrace with Fowles when she exited the game in the fourth quarter for the final time at the 43-second mark. “We’d hoped that we were going to end the regular season in a more joyous way, give her a chance for her last game to be the playoffs, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
After starting the year 3-13, Fowles and the Lynx still had a chance at the postseason. Minnesota needed a win, along with a loss from either the New York Liberty or Phoenix Mercury, to earn the eighth and final playoff spot. Reeve, whose squad finished 14-22 and finished in 10th place, then broke for the first of several times while paying tribute to the 15-year WNBA veteran and eight-year Lynx player, pausing to let the emotion roll through.
“Syl’s awfully special,” continued Reeve, who won two of the Lynx’s four WNBA titles with Fowles in the lineup. “Through it all. That’s the thing that’s so crazy: I might have been really resentful if I were Sylvia Fowles. For most of the season, I might have been really pissy as a person. But Syl found a way. She’s just got a whole lot more love in her body that most of us.”
The 36-year-old Fowles also had more to achieve in her career finale, hitting one last milestone Sunday when she surpassed 4,000 career rebounds. She finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds in just over 30 minutes, recording her 101st double-double in a Lynx uniform. For her career, Fowles retires as the league’s all-time double-doubles leader (193) and a top-10 all-time scorer. She’s also a four-time Olympic gold medalist, with four WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. Other accolades include league MVP honors in 2017, and she also was named the WNBA Finals MVP in 2015 and 2017, as she helped the Lynx to two of their four titles during a seven-year span.
📲 ICYMI: @SylviaFowles has reached 4K career rebounds, becoming the first player in WNBA history to eclipse 4K+ rebounds 👏
Congrats Syl 🧡 pic.twitter.com/imeBiCS91k
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 14, 2022
“What an unbelievable career, a true giant in our game,” said Sun coach Curt Miller after the win. “Just one of the elite post players that’s ever played the game of women’s basketball, and again, has not received probably as much notoriety as she should for someone that has been so dominant and so consistent throughout her career. It’s a pleasure to compete against her, and obviously goes out as still one of the most efficient and productive players in our league.”
Ironically, Fowles was quick to criticize her final performance, telling reporters after the game: “I was a little annoyed with myself because I had a sh—- three quarters. And I felt like I did (my teammates) a disservice. And so, I just was a little frustrated and emotional at the same time.”
However, she admitted she’s yet to process the finality of it all, and said she came into Sunday with a thankful spirit.
“I learned this team was going to be different and a little more challenging, so I had to do things that were out of my comfort zone, which I’m gratefully happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone,” said Fowles, who was feted by Minnesota following her final home game on Friday — a loss to the Seattle Storm. “But also, too, just appreciating the love that I got from the fans this year. It game perspective to me, and I never got that in my first 14 years of playing, and so to see that all come together for my last year – I’m really grateful for that as well.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas, who led the Sun in scoring Sunday with 16 points and seven rebounds. “One of the game’s greatest. So, for this to be her last game, it’s sad. We wanted to see her out there again.”
Thomas was backed up on court by teammates Brionna Jones and Natisha Hiedeman, who each scored 15 points, while Jonquel Jones added 12.
Minnesota’s Lindsay Allen, who came into the game averaging just 4.3 points per game this season, led the way for the Lynx. The 27-year-old Notre Dame alum had a breakout performance, going 6-of-7 from the three-point range and scoring a career-high 26 points with six assists. Aerial Powers added 22 points and eight rebounds.
Connecticut ended its season on a three-game win streak, finishing with a 26-11 record and sweeping the season series vs. Minnesota, 3-0. The Sun head into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and will face the No. 6-seeded Dallas Wings in a first-round, best-of three series that begins Thursday.
“They’re young and dynamic and can really score the basketball,” said Miller regarding the matchup. “You know, you’re talented one on one players. They’re long, they’re athletic. They pose problems. So, they have some success and stretches against us this year. It should be a great series.”
The Sun went 1-2 vs. the Wings in the regular season, including an 82-71 loss in their last meeting July 5, but Connecticut has won eight of the last 10 meetings overall, dating back to 2019.
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