With only ten games remaining in the regular season, Tuesday’s matchup between the Lynx and Liberty could be deemed a “must win” for both teams. New York entered the night on a six game losing streak and are watching their playoff hopes slip away. Meanwhile, Minnesota is safely in the postseason mix but would like to climb the standings. Games against lottery-bound teams like the Liberty are few and far between.
The first half was nothing short of a debacle. Unfortunately this was mostly due to the influence of the officials. Kindly put, they called a very tight game. Less-kindly put, they couldn’t get out of their own way and halted the game’s flow at every opportunity. To make matters worse there were numerous first half stoppages due to game and shot clock malfunctions. It took over an hour to play 20 minutes of basketball. Let’s agree to blame all of this on the league’s most inappropriate venue: Westchester County Center.
Referees and depressing gymnasiums aside, the other aspect that dragged the first half down were turnovers. Minnesota and New York are the two worst offenders in the league. Both teams struggled to hang onto the ball on Tuesday but the Liberty’s giveaways were more damaging, especially in the first half. Minnesota found ways to keep scoring despite their turnovers. They got into the open court for fast break points and to the free throw line for 26 attempts. New York on the other hand was totally short circuited by their miscues. There were long stretches where the Liberty lacked any semblance of offensive flow.
Midway through the second quarter the Lynx led 34-18 and threatened to blow the game open. Instead, New York went on a 22-8 run over the half’s final five minutes to cut the lead to two points. This onslaught was powered by reserve shooter Rebecca Allen who scored 20 of her career-high 28 in the second quarter. Those 20 points were the second most in WNBA history for a single quarter. She was white-hot all night long and hit 11 of her 15 shots including 6 of 7 from long range.
Suddenly the game was interesting. But Minnesota came out of the locker room with purpose. They kicked off the half with an 8-2 run to regain their lead. Napheesa Collier did a little bit of everything as usual, and scored 8 of her 14 points in the third quarter. Odyssey Sims also had a nice game scoring 17 points, dishing six assists, and swiping three steals. Sims was more efficient than usual, getting into the lane for her trademark lefty floater and taking contact that put her on the free throw line.
Minnesota’s bench also deserves a lot of credit. On a night where Sylvia Fowles found herself in foul trouble, Damiris Dantas looked to ease herself back into the lineup, and Seimone Augustus struggled to score, the Lynx reserves stepped up in a big way. Stephanie Talbot hit four threes, Danielle Robinson sprinted up and down the court for 14 points, and Temi Fagbenle and Lexi Brown combined for 15 as well. As they say, it was a team effort.
New York played better in the second half, but their defense ultimately let them down. The Lynx continued to penetrate the lane unimpeded and were able to maintain a comfortable lead for the entirety of the half. Minnesota took care of business on the road, handing the Liberty their seventh straight loss. Cheryl Reeve and her team will now continue to build on their playoff seeding, while the Liberty will remain on the outside looking in.
Amanda Zahui B missed the game due to concussion symptoms. Asia Durr missed the game due to a groin strain.
As noted above Dantas returned to Minnesota’s lineup after missing Sunday’s game in Washington. Dantas is super important to the Lynx. Hopefully her calf responds well to this game and she can suit up again on Friday.
It would be nice if this was the last game the Lynx ever had to play at the dreaded Westchester County Center. Sadly, it seems as if the Liberty might again be sequestered in White Plains next summer instead of making the move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Minnesota returns home to face first-place Washington at Target Center on Friday. Minnesota is still smarting from the beatdown they endured on Sunday. Maybe some payback will be in order. Tip off is set for 7pm
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