One of the biggest reasons the Minnesota Lynx are one win from clinching the top seed in the WNBA playoffs has been the play of center Sylvia Fowles.
Fowles, who signed a contract extension with the team Friday, and the Lynx host the Washington Mystics on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., with a chance to finish the season in first place.
Minnesota (26-7) can clinch home-court advantage for the playoffs with a win or a Los Angeles Sparks loss Sunday afternoon. The Sparks host Connecticut.
Fresh from signing a new contract, Fowles scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Lynx overwhelmed Chicago 110-87 on Friday evening.
Minnesota fans chanted “MVP” when Fowles touched the ball in the fourth quarter.
Fowles’ teammates agreed.
“We are all convinced,” Maya Moore said of Fowles’ MVP chances. “With what she’s been doing on the best team, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Fowles, who leads the team in in scoring (19.4 points per game), rebounds (10.5), blocks (2.0) and field-goal percentage (66 percent), said she hasn’t let the MVP talk be a distraction.
“I tried not to think about it much throughout the season,” the center told the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. “But as we start winding down, it’s on the top of your head. I must say, it has not been easy. But I’m loving the journey I’m taking.”
The Lynx lead the Sparks by one game in the standings, but the Sparks, having beaten Minnesota twice in three tries this season, would get the No. 1 seed if the teams end up in a tie.
“We said we’d rather be in our locker room looking down the standings and knowing if we win, there’s nothing anybody else can do,” Reeve said.
The Mystics (18-15) on Friday secured a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Elena Delle Donne scored a season-high 37 points as Washington beat Seattle 110-106 in overtime. The Storm clinched the eighth playoff spot despite the loss.
The Mystics will host the Storm or the Dallas Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
Fifth-place Washington has lost five of its past seven games.
“The biggest thing for me is to be playing better basketball with some rhythm going into the playoffs,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault told the Wasington Post. “We’ve had no rhythm at all. It’s just been disjointed really.”
But part of the Mystics’ struggles can be blamed on late-season injuries.
Delle Donne missed two weeks in August after undergoing surgery on her left thumb.
The 2015 MVP is averaging 20 points and seven rebounds per game for Washington.
“I’m all right,” Delle Donne said. “Obviously all of our bodies are a little tired.”