Center Sylvia Fowles missed her first game since joining the Minnesota Lynx five years ago, but her replacement in the starting lineup had the best night of her young career.
Bridget Carleton, a second-year forward, had 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists as the Lynx beat New York 92-66 Wednesday in Bradenton, Florida. Carleton, 23, appeared in just eight games last year as a rookie, scoring a total of three points. This season, she had scored 10 points over Minnesota's first four games before her breakout performance Wednesday.
Carleton, who was Big 12 player of the year as a senior at Iowa State in 2019, didn't find out she was starting until about a half-hour before the game. "Obviously, a little nerve-wracking, but I have confidence. I think my coaches and teammates have instilled confidence in me," she said. "Coming into this season, I knew there was going to be opportunity, especially with the demanding schedule of playing every other day. Injuries are going to happen; people are going to need to rest. I was ready to take advantage of any opportunity I have."
The Liberty, who earlier in the day said rookie guard Sabrina Ionescu was headed to New York to get her injured ankle looked at, fell to 0-5. The Lynx are tied with Seattle and Chicago for the best record in the league at 4-1.
Fowles, the 2017 WNBA MVP, came to the Lynx via trade from Chicago after sitting out the first half of the 2015 season. Her first game that year was July 29 and she has played every game for Minnesota since. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said Fowles warmed up before the game and appeared to have no issues. But the team trainer told Reeve about 30 minutes before the game that Fowles was having calf problems, and they opted to hold her out as a precaution.
The Lynx moved Damiris Dantas to starting center, put Napheesa Colllier at power forward and brought in Carleton as small forward for the first start of her career. The Lynx also got back guard Lexie Brown after she missed two games in concussion protocol. Brown had 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 7 steals.
Carleton was a second-round draft pick by Connecticut in 2019 and played four games with the Sun before being released in July 2019. She was signed by the Lynx in August and played sparingly in four games for Minnesota. But she made an impact on Reeve and earned a roster spot for 2020.
"She's been one of the better 'have-fun' players on our team," Reeve said. "She's been really good for the personality of our team. Obviously, this was important timing for this game. It was a great opportunity for her, and she seized the moment."