For the first time in a dozen years, the Minnesota Lynx will not participate in the WNBA postseason.
And an all-time great has played her final game.
In a must-win situation, the Lynx again started slowly Sunday, showed flashes of being playoff-worthy, and nearly rallied from a large deficit, but fell 90-83 in Connecticut.
Unfortunately for the Lynx going forward — and the WNBA as a whole — the Hall of Fame career of center Sylvia Fowles is over.
In her 408th game, Fowles finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for her WNBA-best 193rd career double-double. The future mortician finished her 15-year career with 4,006 boards — 2,874 defensive — and is the first player in league history to surpass 4,000 career rebounds. Her 62.9 percent field-goal percentage is the league’s all-time best.
Pulled with 43.2 seconds left to a standing ovation, Fowles received a lengthy embrace from coach Cheryl Reeve and more hugs from her teammates.
A fighter to the end, it was hard for Fowles at the moment to grasp the much-deserved reception.
“I was annoyed with myself because I had a (bad) three quarters and I felt like I did them a disservice, and so I was just a little frustrated and emotional at the same time,” Fowles said.
Yet she couldn’t avoid the chance to tell her teammates how appreciative she is of them. The same for her coach.
“Cheryl has been everything I needed to be successful, and I’m grateful for that,” Fowles said.
Reeve had to compose herself a couple of times postgame.
“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles. … It’s the way she did it, the love that she has for not just people, that’s her state, but the love that she has for the organization, and the love for me. Life without Sylvia Fowles is going to suck. Big time. She’ll be in my life, no doubt about it, but we’ll never get to share the battles, the side eye that she gives me.
“… Maybe she’ll miss me pushing. Maybe. I don’t know,” Reeve said as fighting back tears turned to a chuckle.
The game played out as so many have for 14-22 Minnesota in 2022: an awful start, a second-half rally to get back in the contest but ultimately coming up just short.
Much like Friday’s home debacle against Seattle, the Lynx were sloppy in the first quarter, making just 6 of 20 shots, turning the ball over five times and falling behind 28-14.
Down by 17 entering the fourth quarter, Aerial Powers scored 11 of her 22 points, and Minnesota used a 17-3 run to get within 80-76 with 3:20 left.
That stretch was largely against Connecticut reserves. The Sun (25-11), who are a league-best 12-3 since the all-star break and entered the game locked into the No. 3 seed for the postseason, scored six of the next eight points with their starters back in to secure the win.
A bright spot for Minnesota was Lindsay Allen.
She scored a career-high 26 points and shot 6 of 7 from outside the arc. She was 2-for-7 from long-range and had 34 points combined in her first eight games since signing with the Lynx July 21.
“It’s really frustrating, especially when you’re with a group you care about so much and you want to succeed and you want to do it with them together. But I’m proud of our fight, proud that we came back,” Allen said.
The latter describes the season as a whole.
On June 19, the Lynx were 3-13 with questions aplenty about seemingly all aspects of the team. But an 11-8 second-half surge entering Sunday put the Lynx in position for postseason play.
Reeve gives a lot of credit for that to Fowles, the unquestioned leader of the Lynx whose perspective, rosy outlook and patience were much needed.
“I might’ve been pissy as a person,” Reeve said. “Syl found a way … she’s got a hell of a lot more love in her body than most of us.”