The Minnesota Lynx will be without a pair of their key contributors for an extended period of time. On Monday, the team announced that forward Natalie Achonwa and guard Aerial Powers will both be out indefinitely due to injuries suffered in Saturday night’s 80-64 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Achonwa has a sprained MCL in her right knee, and Powers tore the UCL in her right thumb and will have surgery later in the week.
The Lynx are considered to be a darkhorse in the WNBA’s title hunt this season, but it hasn’t been an easy start. The team lost its first three games as All-Star Napheesa Collier waited to clear protocol from overseas competition, and then a fourth consecutive game in her season debut. Ever since, the Lynx have won four of five games to get themselves to a 4-5 record, but will now have to sustain themselves without a starter and a rotation player.
The news of Power’s injury is especially brutal. The 5’11 wing had just returned from a three-week absence following a hamstring strain, and only played 11 minutes before the injury. The 2019 champion is one of the team’s biggest offseason signings along with Kayla McBride. That duo’s shooting capabilities and versatility on the defensive end, complemented by the interior play of Collier and Hall-of-Famer-to-be Sylvia Fowles, were supposed to be enough for the Lynx compete with the WNBA’s best.
Now, Minnesota will have to change its plan a bit.
How will the Lynx win without Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa?
It won’t be easy. There’s no player on the roster who can slot into Powers’ role, but Layshia Clarendon will contribute in other ways. The 5’9 guard was waived by the Liberty on May 20 and has started four games for the Lynx since getting picked up. In five games, they’re averaging 9.2 points per game in Minnesota on 50 percent shooting from the field and 2-of-5 3-point makes with 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds and has been the catalyst since Powers’ first injury.
The team should also expect a boost in play from 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield, who’s playing a role off the bench this season. In 25 minutes, she’s averaging 11.9 points per game on 42.9 percent 3-point shooting with 4.0 assists to 1.8 turnovers. Without Powers drive-and-kick capabilities as a slashing wing, both Clarendon and Dangerfield will have to continue to create in their own ways on the perimeter.
Nobody is doubting them, but Collier and Fowles will have to be great, too, if Minnesota wants to stay in the mix for a top-4 playoff seed and avoid playing two single-elimination games. The Lynx’s 10 games before the Olympic break include a pair of matchups against the Las Vegas Aces, three games against Arike Ogunbowale’s Dallas Wings, and a game against Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky.