Sunday afternoon in New York City, the Minnesota Lynx reverted back to the uneven, offensively challenged team they have been throughout August. Coming on the heels of Friday’s historic, 59 point beat down of the Indiana Fever, Minnesota was unable to take the momentum from that game on the road against the Liberty.
The game began with the Lynx doing exactly what got them going on Friday night- turning defense into transition offense. They forced five Liberty turnovers and had a 19-11 lead after the first quarter. While Minnesota’s defense was fairly consistently solid throughout this game, New York cleaned up their mistakes after the opening frame, only giving the ball away seven more times in the final three quarters.
Before Friday’s blowout win I asked Cheryl Reeve what was most disappointing aspect of her team’s recent offensive struggles. Reeve narrowed Minnesota’s issues down to a few isolated quarters of basketball.
“There’s little things that have gotten away from us. The LA game we’re fine until the third quarter when we score 8 points. In Seattle the second and fourth quarter, (we scored) 10 and 11. We have to recognize what’s going on and make sure our offense is not going through those moments.”
Both of the second half quarters in this game should be added to Reeve’s list of quarters where the team had many of “those moments.”
Unlike some recent Lynx losses, the problems with the offense was a result of their opposition’s defensive scheme. The New York Liberty are playing as well as any team in the WNBA right now, beating each of the three teams above them in the league standings (Lynx, Sparks, Sun) this week. A big reason for this is their sterling defense, which was on full display at Madison Square Garden.
The Liberty put on a clinic on how to slow down Sylvia Fowles. The key is not to bring a double team once she’s caught the ball, but to do everything in your power to make sure she never catches the ball in the first place. Two New York defenders were within an arms distance of Fowles for the entire game. She only scored seven points on four shot attempts. Her post up opportunites were extremely limited by the Libery defense. When she did actually get touches, she made mistakes with the basektball, turning it over a game high five times. Playing in a crowd isn’t anything new for Fowles, she’s seen hard double teams all summer. Typically she can score through multiple defenders or pass the ball out to teammates who in turn knock down jump shots. Neither of those things happened Sunday afternoon. Rebekkah Brunson is one of the main beneficiaries of the attention Fowles gets. Brunson has been fantastic shooting the ball when it is kicked to her out of those double teams. Plenette Pierson failed in that role shooting 3-14 from the field as New York dared her to launch all afternoon. Minnesota’s eventual playoff opponents can and will study the tape of this game in hopes of doing the same next month.
The Lynx have now lost four of their last six games and contiune to search for consistancy on both sides of the court since losing two of their captains to injury. There was an understanding that Friday’s game against Indiana would be something of an anomaly. But the letdown that occurred less than 48 hours after that historic night is indeed concerning.
The minutes distribution in this game were very interesting. Fowles played a season high 39 minutes while rookie Temi Fagbenle caught another DNP-CD. Also Alexis Jones only played four minutes. Reeve only has nine players on her roster and essentially only played seven in this one.
Minnesota now only has a 1.5 game lead on the very up-for-grabs number one seeding the WNBA playoffs. Sunday’s upcoming Sparks/Lynx game is must-see TV and could be the deciding factor in which team tops the league standings at the end of the season.
The Lynx return home to wrap up a 4 game in 7 night stretch against the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday night. You can watch the game on Fox Sports North or on NBATV.