Friday night, Layshia Clarendon was in league-mandated quarantine in the Twin Cities. Waived by New York, picked up by the Lynx, waiting out quarantine, watching on TV the Lynx suffer its most difficult loss of the short season in Seattle …
Well, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve joked, Clarendon probably wondered what the heck they were getting into.
This: One of the focal points of one of the most needed Lynx victories in recent memory.
Officially signed during the day, Clarendon took the Target Center court and scored 12 points, five in overtime, as the Lynx beat Connecticut 79-74.
Clarendon, the WNBA's first player to openly identify as transgender and non-binary, brought order to a sometimes dysfunctional offense, brought defense to the perimeter for a Lynx team that, after allowing the Sun to shoot 10-for-16 in its 27-point first quarter, held that same team to 17-for-55 the rest of the way. Clarendon's 12 points included a three with 1:06 left in overtime that broke a 72-72 tie and put the Lynx ahead for good.
Clarendon also grabbed five rebounds. Lynx guards had 18 of the team's 38 rebounds, plus three assists.
Clarendon didn't expect to be responsible for winning the game, but that's kind of what happened.
"It was brutal,'' Clarendon said of trying to run the point on a new team. "My head was spinning. It's tough. It's difficult.''
Said Reeve: ''[Clarendon] didn't know anything we were doing.''
But, as Reeve noted, Clarendon is a professional.
"That's what professionals do,'' she said.
Considering the Lynx (1-4) spotted the Sun (6-2) the first quarter (they trailed by 12) and the fact the team just couldn't seem to score enough to make up that dozen points, this was a good win.
The Lynx outrebounded the league's best rebounding team. And held the Sun to 22 points in the paint.
But the Lynx offense was still so hit and (too many) misses that it didn't look like it would matter.
Minnesota trailed by eight with just over a minute left in regulation.
But Kayla McBride hit a three-pointer with 1:08 left. Moments later after two consecutive offensive rebounds, Damiris Dantas hit a three with 37.2 seconds left and it was a two-point game. After DeWanna Bonner missed at the other end, Crystal Dangerfield made her way to the elbow and scored a tying basket with 2.9 seconds left. Clarendon's three at the buzzer — had it counted — would have been the ultimate finish to the story. But it came too late.
No matter. Down two, Clarendon scored on a layup that tied it with 1:47 left in OT. After a Sun miss, McBride dished the ball to Clarendon, who hit a 25-footer with 1:06 left and the Lynx were in the lead for good.
"I was wide open,'' Clarendon said. "I knew I had to let it fly. Part of me was, 'They took my game-winner away, so it felt pretty good.' ''
Everybody felt good after a difficult 0-4 start. The Lynx's game got better as the game went on; they outscored Connecticut 24-11 over the final 6-plus minutes.
Center Sylvia Fowles had a dominant, 24-point, nine-rebound game. Napheesa Collier and McBride scored 11 each. Fowles (six), Clarendon and Collier (five each) scored all of Minnesota's overtime points.
Connecticut got 22 points from Jonquel Jones, 18 from Bonner and 14 from Jasmine Thomas.
"Exactly what we needed,'' Collier said of Clarendon.