WNBA

Fowles, Lynx Ferocious in Fourth

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When the Lynx and Storm first met in Minneapolis this season, the winless Minnesota squad took a 10-point lead into the final frame against the defending champions. Seattle then showed exactly why they’re the champs, scoring a fiery 37 points in the fourth quarter and taking home a 12-point victory against a Lynx team still trying to figure out their identity. On Tuesday, August 24th, the Lynx avenged that collapse with a 76-70 victory behind an historic performance from Sylvia Fowles.

Sweet Syl’s stat line of 29 poInts, 20 rebounds, four steals, three blocks with 0 fouls and 0 turnovers is the first of its kind in WNBA history. But the numbers are just a microcosm of the effect she has on this Lynx team. Most of what she does for the team will never show up in an individual stat sheet. Not for her and not for her teammates.

“I just know she’s the anchor,” Coach Reeve said in her postgame comments. “She’s the one we count on to limit touches in the paint. We count on her in pick-and-roll defense in a variety of ways.”

Fourth Quarter Dominance

The Lynx held Seattle to 16 points in the fourth quarter to help seal their victory and break a losing streak to the Storm going back a few years. It also marked the 13th time the Lynx have held a team to 16 points or less in the fourth quarter on the season. Following the 37-point debacle on May 20th, the Lynx have started to shut opponents down in the final frame. In fact, they have yet to lose another game where they led after three quarters and they’ve become the best fourth quarter defense in the entire WNBA.

In the final frame, the Lynx are holding opponents to a league-best 16.9 PPG with a stifling 86.2 defensive rating. And there is no doubt in the Lynx locker room that this all starts with Sylvia Fowles. The team trusts her to hold the post, be there for help, and protect the rim. And this has translated not only to the best defense of the 4th quarter in the league, but of any individual quarter. Connecticut’s league-leading defense has managed their best defensive rating in the opening frame with an 88.0. For the fourth quarter, that tough Connecticut team is posting a 96.1 defensive rating while giving up 18.3 PPG. For the final 10 minutes of regulation time, the Lynx have been fielding the best defense in the WNBA.

Looking To Make History

By Coach Reeve’s own admission, this Lynx team will not be “elite” defensively, they have also proven to be one of the toughest fourth quarter teams in WNBA history. Since 2006, the farthest back quarter by quarter records are available, there have only been two teams that have held opponents under 17 points per game in the fourth for the season. The 2015 New York Liberty did it most recently, but the first team to accomplish the feat was the Minnesota Lynx in 2012. Cheryl Reeve and now-assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson are the only personnel remaining from that 2012 squad, but the focus and tenacity are still there. This time under the veteran leadership of Fowles.

Quietly Dominant

The individual stat sheet may not reflect Sylvia Fowles as an overwhelming force, but you can see how her presence in the paint and ability to anticipate the next move improves everyone around her. A quick glance at the player defensive win shares for the fourth quarter shows a glut of Lynx players up in the top 15, including a number that have not been traditionally known for their defensive chops. And consistently, you can see them give credit to the presence that is Sylvia Fowles.

In year 14, Sylvia Fowles is continuing to make individual and team history. And whether or not she gets the credit she deserves nationally, as Coach Reeve was emphatic about in her post-game commentary, her team rallies behind her. You saw it when they stormed her with hugs after the final buzzer. You saw it when they flooded Twitter with their praise. But most importantly, they show it by being the best they can be closing out games. That is the effect of Mama Syl.

About Corbitt Harrell

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