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Sylvia Fowles feels and gives the love in final regular-season home game

Sylvia Fowles received apologies from her Minnesota Lynx teammates for a blowout loss to the Seattle Storm. In the midst of it all, she just wanted them to know she was proud of them.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
It was an emotional night for Sylvia Fowles.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx were never really competitive Friday night in Sylvia Fowles’ final regular-season game at Target Center, falling 96-69 to the Seattle Storm. The loss hurt their playoff chances as they now need a win and either a Phoenix Mercury or New York Liberty loss on Sunday to get in. They could have given Fowles the gift of clinching in her farewell game with a win and a Mercury loss, but Phoenix defeated the Dallas Wings.

“Definitely won’t say frustrating,” Fowles commented after the game. “It tends to be hard when you can’t get things done. But by no means I’m frustrated. I just wish we can do a little better, that’s all.”

Fowles maintained that tone throughout the postgame press conference, knowing that the incredible farewell she received from the crowd transcended winning and losing and even basketball.

“(What hit me the hardest emotionally was) looking at my teammates’ faces, and listenin’ to them apologize to me. It’s kind of hurtful, you know? It’s not like they go out there and try to play terrible. It’s just it happens like that and that’s been part of our season this year. Just up and down, up and down.

“And Seattle had our number. And so it’s hard to play against a well-oiled machine. We knew how that goes, when we had our good run back then. But I just want them to know that I’m proud of ‘em. I don’t think it’s about the wins and losses. I think it’s about how you approach every game and how you treat each other. And I stand fully and firm on that.”

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, who has coached Fowles for eight years and won two WNBA championships with her, was in tears after Fowles checked out of the game for the final time, which you can see in this video:

On the broadcast, ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo said, “Cheryl Reeve told us before the game that she went down to visit Sylvia Fowles during free agency and she said, ‘We got all the tears out of the way then.’ And that’s not the case.”

“I think at the end of the day it’s how I treat people,” Fowles said when a reporter asked about her moving some people to tears. “I don’t think basketball really plays a factor in that. And the one thing that I stand firm on is making sure people feel like they’re loved and they’re welcome and they’re heard.”

“I’m not her parent. I told Mrs. Fowles, I can’t imagine what that feels like,” Reeve said. “Your body of work on that young person and what she became, you know, one of the greatest of all-time in her profession and just adored by so many. I can’t imagine what that felt like as a parent. But, I have a great deal of pride that I got to share in seven and a half seasons of her illustrious career.

“We poured a lot into each other. Syl gave us everything she had. Through the tough times, the great times. You could just count on Syl. I hope that she could say the same for our staff and what we tried to do with her. We always tried to evolve, we always tried to add something to her game. She was always so willing.

“It was very overwhelming for Syl. She’s somebody that’s always kind of underserved, under-appreciated. Not by obviously our fans. But I think for her she’s just always like, ‘I’m just doing my job.’ And I think when you get to the end and you look up and you look out, you say, ‘Holy shit, wow. Like, I really did it right.’ And I think it was very overwhelming for her.”

Fowles, the WNBA’s all-time leader in double-doubles, recorded another one with 13 points and 12 boards. She also had two assists, two steals and a block and oh by the way became the first WNBA player to lead two franchises in rebounds (the Chicago Sky and the Lynx).

But the Storm shot 52.8 percent from the field, shot 12-of-27 from three and outrebounded Minnesota 39-30.

“Obviously we know Seattle’s a good team, they’re playing great at the right time, but obviously that was a disappointing way to end our regular-season home slate,” Reeve said. “It was a difficult night when we needed help out west and didn’t get that either, so tough night for the Lynx and now we gotta go try to win a road game at Connecticut.

“We don’t have any prep, we just gotta get on the plane, get there, get a good night’s sleep, and then we go hoopin’ with playoffs on the line. There’s nothing you can do other than play to your identity. You have a couple schemes that we’ll talk about. But ultimately, they’re gonna do what they do, we have to do what we do. We have to score the ball, we need point guard play. We need point guard play. We’ve got to get that. Because without that everything gets a little more challenging. Because we know when we get that, we’re a pretty good team. ... It’s gonna be physical, they’re tough, they pound the ball inside. So, we’ll see what we can do.”

“Basically what was said in the huddle is don’t hold your head down type thing,” Fowles said. “We still have one more game left. We still have a little lifeline. And so you just have to flush it. Tonight wasn’t our night. And so hopefully we go out and play better on Sunday.”