Following a seven-day stretch without a game, the Lynx returned to action Saturday night and took care of business against the struggling Liberty. Earlier in the week Cheryl Reeve stressed the importance of this game.
“We can’t keep going the way we’re going. The time is now for the response. If we don’t get a response beginning on Saturday, then I don’t know what we’re doing. Then maybe it’s just words. Maybe the collective will isn’t as strong. I don’t think that’s the case, but we will find out next time we play.”
Reeve got the “response” she called for right away. The Lynx dominated the first quarter, leading 28-16 after one and never looked back. That week off was beneficial.
Charles in Charge
The book on this edition of the New York Liberty is simple: take away Tina Charles and make anyone else beat you. Despite a litany of respectable shooters, New York doesn’t have a clear second banana to Charles. Minnesota was successful in limiting her effectiveness. She needed 14 shots to score 12 points, was held to four total rebounds and kept off the free throw line entirely. While seven other Liberty players scored at least five points, none of them consistently made the Lynx pay for all the attention given to Charles. Rebekkah Brunson usually draws the assignment to be the primary defender on her and as usual, did a wonderful job. Brunson denied her the ball in post up situations and did not allow her to get many good looks. Furthermore, they put a body on her and did not allow her to grab a single offense rebound.
Speaking of rebounding- its been Minnesota’s most consistent advantage this season. They lead the league in rebounding percentage at 55.2%. Saturday night the Lynx bested the Liberty 35-22 in total rebounds, 42-22 in paint points, and 19-3 in second chance points. Rebounds are important and the Lynx employ two world class glass cleaners: Fowles and Brunson. After the game Cheryl Reeve explained the value of rebounding in basketball.
“Its a possession game. If you can play your defense and get your stop finishing with a rebound it generates easier offense. If you don’t get a rebound they get another shot at the goal. When a team is getting 7, 8 ,9, 10 more shots than you…its a possession game. So when you finish plays with rebounds, you can be ahead in possessions and if you’re more efficient then you can win the game.”
Grab and Go
Minnesota is neither a fast team nor a slow team. They’re ranked 7th out of 12 in overall pace. While its probably unreasonable to ask the WNBA’s oldest roster to run more, their offense tends to work better when they get into it quickly. Thanks to all the aforementioned rebounds, the Lynx showed Saturday what their offense can do when they grab and go. Lanes to drive to the rim and space for Fowles to operate in the paint are both more abundant when they don’t allow their opponent to set up their defense. Danielle Robinson had eight assists in this game and her ability to push the ball up the floor was a big reason why. She’s hard to stop in the open court and when the help comes, she’s great at finding open shooters or cutters for open looks. The Robinson/Fowles connection is coming long nicely. They should be a fun duo to watch for years to come.
This was a confidence building game that the Lynx needed badly. Minnesota got the win and looked great doing it. Order is restored. For now.
Maya Moore had a very “Maya Moore” stat line with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
New York Liberty head coach, and former Minnesota Lynx player Katie Smith was honored before the game for being a member of the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame. The sold out Target Center gave her a standing ovation. She was the franchise’s first real superstar. During her time with the Lynx (1999-2005) she was scoring champion once (2001) and was named to the WNBA First Team twice (2001, 2003).
Cecilia Zandalasini had a career night with her highest totals in points (13), steals (3), and minutes (23). She’s starting to look very comfortable out there on the court. She finally shooting the ball with no hesitation.
Fowles did not have a single turnover in this game. A welcome sight after her struggles in this department through the first 10 games.
The Lynx return to action Tuesday night at Target Center. Current WNBA scoring leader Skyler Diggins-Smith and the Dallas Wings come to Minneapolis for the second and final time this season. Tip is at 7pm. You can watch the game on WNBA League Pass or listen on BOB 106 FM.