The Minnesota Lynx are on the prowl. For a top-four seed. For a top-two seed? For a title?
The five-week Olympic break failed to extinguish Minnesota’s momentum, as the Lynx (13-7) locked up an eighth-straight win on Sunday against the New York Liberty. They can notch a ninth-straight win Tuesday evening (7 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime) in Connecticut in the first game of a two-game set against the Sun (15-6).
If they sweep their mini-series with the Sun, the Lynx will take over the third spot in the standings, and put themselves in contention for one of the coveted top-two spots.
After starting the season with four-straight losses, Minnesota muddled below .500 for much of June. By July, things began to come together for Lynx, with Minnesota, finally, resembling the championship-quality team it was expected to be.
The Lynx’s change in fortunes coincided with the full integration of two key new contributors in free-agent signee Kayla McBride and waiver-wire signee Layshia Clarendon, as well as the reintegration of Napheesa Collier, who arrived after the season started due to overseas obligations.
Collier, and, in turn, the Lynx, also still have untapped upside. The first-time Olympian’s shooting efficiency still trails the numbers she posted last season, with her struggles from 3-point range, in particular, dragging down her percentages. Her rebounding and assist percentages also are down, suggesting Collier can become even more active and involved when on the court.
tough shot?— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) August 16, 2021
no such thing for Phee. ♀️ pic.twitter.com/mG6uEY684s
The two-game tango with the Sun will serve as an instructive barometer for the Lynx and their aspirations. Connecticut rebounded from a rusty, underwhelming performance in the Commissioner’s Cup championship with a resounding victory over the Wings in Dallas. After a rough outing against the Seattle Storm, Jonquel Jones quickly rounded back into MVP form on Sunday, with a 19-point, 15-rebound double-double. If Jones can put up similar numbers against the Lynx and Sylvia Fowles — the WNBA’s all-time double-double queen who had 20 points and 11 rebounds herself on Sunday — expect the Sun to set on Minnesota’s winning streak.
Tuesday night features four other games: Wings-Sky (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), Mystics-Aces (10 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), Fever-Mercury (10 p.m. ET, Facebook) and Dream-Sparks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
After looking like a playoff team earlier in the season, the Wings (9-13) are stumbling, having lost four-straight games and dropped to ninth in the standings. Can they steal a win against the Sky (11-10) in Chicago? The Mystics (8-11) likewise will be seeking to rise up the standings, as well as positively respond to their collapse against the Aces (16-6) on Sunday. Sitting at .500, the Mercury (10-10) have the opportunity to claim a winning record — and, maybe, begin to look like a true contender — against the Fever (4-17). Finally, LA (7-13) hosts Atlanta (6-14) in a must-win game. Having made the playoffs for nine seasons in a row, the Sparks have to take care of the Dream, one of two teams below them in the standings, if they hope to have a chance of extending their postseason streak.
Minnesota Lynx (13-7) vs. Connecticut Sun (15-6)
When: Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
How to watch: Amazon Prime or NESN+
Key to the matchup: Sylvia Fowles has added a fourth gold medal to her trophy case and, if her performance on Sunday is any indication, she also intent on winning a third WNBA championship. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was powered by a sparkling 9-of-10 shooting performance. As alluded to above, Jonquel Jones is a lot to handle, even for a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. However, despite being in year 14 of a WNBA career that has been accompanied by significant Olympic and USA Basketball obligations, Fowles is not slowing down or surrendering her status as one of the W’s best centers.
Lynx injury report: Aerial Powers (out indefinitely; thumb), Rennia Davis (out for season; foot)
Sun injury report: Alyssa Thomas (out for season; Achilles)
Highlights: Sweet Syl was sensational on Sunday!
Dallas Wings (9-13) vs. Chicago Sky (11-10)
When: Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or The U
Key to the matchup: On Sunday, for the first time this season, Stefanie Dolson did not start for the Sky. Serving as a sixth woman seemed to serve the newly-minted 3x3 gold medalist well. Dolson infused a lackluster start by Chicago with an infectious energy that exceeded her stat line of seven points, seven rebounds, two assists and a block in almost 21 minutes of play. It will be interesting to see if head coach James Wade elects to keep Dolson in a reserve role and if Dolson continues to thrive coming off the bench.
Wings injury report: Satou Sabally (out; Achilles)
Sky injury report: none
Highlight: Stef Dolson swishes it from deep!
Washington Mystics (8-11) vs. Las Vegas Aces (16-6)
When: Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Michelob ULTRA Arean in Las Vegas, NV
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or MYLVTV
Key to the matchup: We should know by now that Liz Cambage knows what is best for Liz Cambage! The Aussie opted out of the Olympics, citing mental health concerns. On Sunday, she showed the benefits of her break from organized basketball, scoring 13 of her 17 points and securing five of her seven rebounds in the second half to help to spur the Aces’ 21-point comeback against the Mystics. She also had a game-high plus-minus of plus-10. Considering Cambage’s history with Washington, it is hard to see Vegas losing if Liz is again locked in.
Mystics injury report: Shavonte Zellous (out; ankle), Elena Delle Donne (out; back)
Aces injury report: Angel McCoughtry (out for season; knee), JiSu Park (out; hip)
Interview: Liz Cambage chats about her contributions to the Aces’ comeback
Indiana Fever (4-17) vs. Phoenix Mercury (10-10)
When: Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: Facebook, Bally Sports AZ+ or fever.wnba.com
Key to the matchup: Brittney Griner was a force throughout Team USA’s run to a seventh-straight gold medal, capping her second Olympic experience with a 30-point performance in the gold medal game. Griner’s significant size advantage certainly aided her Olympic excellence. She does not enjoy such a stark advantage in the WNBA, especially against someone like the Fever’s 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan. However, Griner’s combination of size and skill still endows her with an edge in most matchups. Frustratingly, she appears not always to maximize her strengths. Griner opened Sunday’s game against the Dream with eight-straight points, appearing unstoppable. She then would not score again until the fourth quarter. Phoenix needs the gold medal-game version of Griner in order to take care of business against Indy.
Fever injury report: Jantel Lavender (out; knee), Kysre Gondrezick (out; personal), Chelsey Perry (out; knee), Bernadett Határ (out; ankle)
Mercury injury report: Bria Hartley (out; knee)
Highlight: Make that 11 double-doubles in 20 games for Brittney Griner
BG with another double-double tonight, making it 11 this season. That’s the most double-doubles by a Mercury player in a season in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/k2SFpR3gRd— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) August 15, 2021
Atlanta Dream (6-14) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (7-13)
When: Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet Overflow or NBA TV Canada
Key to the matchup: The Dream’s season of chaos continues. During the Olympic break, interim head coach Mike Petersen stepped down, citing health concerns. Assistant coach Darius Taylor now moves to the front of the bench. Furthermore, Chennedy Carter, suspended for conduct detrimental in early July, remains away from the Dream. Yet, Courtney Williams appears to thrive amidst the chaos, as she continues to compile the best season of her WNBA career. She also thrives on the big stage, evidenced by her excellence in her inaugural All-Start game. Coming off a 30-point performance against Phoenix, expect Williams to be primed to put on a show at STAPLES Center.
Dream injury report: Tiffany Hayes (out; knee), Cheyenne Parker (out for season; personal), Chennedy Carter (out; suspension)
Sparks injury report: Chiney Ogwumike (out; knee), Jasmine Walker (out for season; knee)