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Lynx Win Defensive Battle Against Liberty

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Whalen hits game winner as Lynx prevail

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Cheryl Reeve was a part of Bill Laimbeer’s coaching staff from 2006-2009 with the Detroit Shock. Today they both coach separate teams, Reeve in Minnesota and Laimbeer in New York. After Tuesday night’s dramatic game Reeve was quoting her former mentor after her Lynx defeated his Liberty 76-75.

“By one or by twenty-one. Win the game” Reeve said after the victory.

The first half belonged to New York Liberty forward Tina Charles. A few days removed from starting in the WNBA All Star game, Charles was a force. Scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards, she had it going from all over the court. Picking and popping, rumbling down the lane for paint points, and even hitting a three, the Lynx didn’t have an answer for her. Lynx Coach Reeve talked about the adjustments the team made to her big first half.

“She got hot from the perimeter, we weren’t out long enough in our closeouts. Then in our pick and roll defense she was getting free the guards were dragging our big too far away, we couldn’t get out, so we switched. We thought that quieted her in terms of getting those attempts.”

Charles eventually finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds which is a stellar line by any measure. But the majority of her success took place in the first quarter (14pts/6reb), while defensive ace Rebekkah Brunson sat on the bench with foul trouble. Once Brunson was able to return to the game, Charles was kept in check. Brunson is simply a menace on defense. The type of player you’d hate to have defending you. Her motor combined with her physical tools are responsible for her defensive mastery. She probably defends a post entry pass as well as anyone in the league. Brunson’s point guard Lindsay Whalen was complimentary of her.

“She’s so tenacious, just an unbelievable competitor. She’s so active, she does so many things for us…tonight she drew the job of Tina Charles. (Brunson) had a little foul trouble to start the game, and then she was able to come back in the second half and not worry about fouling, she could be a little more aggressive and that ended up helping out.” Whalen said at her locker after the game.

The majority of the game was a well-played, close contest. Minnesota led throughout, but their largest lead of the game was only 10 points. Post players Sylvia Fowles and Charles lead their respective teams in the first half, while perimeter players Epiphanny Prince and Maya Moore took over in the second half. Moore scored a season high 27 points, had five rebounds, three steals and shot 3-5 from three. The former MVP continues to improve as the season goes along. A terrifying thought for the rest of the league.

Tuesday’s matchup featured the top two defenses in the WNBA. New York and Minnesota were solid on that end for the entire night, but both teams took it up a notch in the fourth quarter. The game tightened up and had taken a dramatic turn. The Lynx became more active in forcing turnovers and had a half-dozen deflections, while the Liberty sealed off the paint and forced the Lynx into late shot clock situations and made them settle for long twos. Minnesota’s offense ground to a halt as they only scored six points in the final seven minutes of the game. Their head coach noticed something wasn’t quite right with the offense.

“I know when I looked out there I didn’t see us having a very good flow to what we were doing. I didn’t think we cut to get open, we weren’t able to move the ball side to side.” Reeve recalled after the game.

Whalen scored the team’s final two baskets, including the eventual game winner with 47 seconds left. The shot was an up-and-under, leaning baseline jumper. Unorthodox for Whalen, but she made something out of nothing like she’s been known to do over her career. New York then drew up and executed a play to get Sugar Rodgers a wide open three point shot that she missed. It wasn’t a pretty ending, but the Lynx battled and got the job done. There’s no shame in that kind of win against a gritty New York team that is better than their record implies. Thanks to Bill Laimbeer and Cheryl Reeve, we already know a win is a win.

Notes:

In addition to her all-world defense, Brunson stuffed the stat sheet in other ways. She tallied 8 reb including 5 oreb, 3 ast, 3 stl. Sure she was 0-7 shooting the ball, but her contribution was massive despite that.

The Liberty players are hard to keep straight. They have two players who’s last names are Allen. They have three players who’s first names are Kia, Kiah, and Bria.

Next Up:

The Lynx head to Atlanta on Friday to take on the Dream for the first time this season. The game is televised on FSN and you can hear it on BOB 106 FM.