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First Half Finale: Lynx Beat Liberty 85-82

Minnesota will host the WNBA All Star game in Minneapolis this weekend.

In a year where the Lynx have lost ten of their first 25 games including five at home nothing is certain. The overall quality of the league is up and the total regular season days are down. Wins are harder to come by this summer and Tuesday’s victory over the lottery-bound Liberty was no exception.

Minnesota’s high pressure defense was nowhere to be found in the first half as the Lynx surrendered 50 points to their opposition. Liberty All Star Tina Charles scored 15 in the first quarter on her way to a game high 32 points. The Lynx turned up their effort on defense in the second half and played through Sylvia Fowles, coming out on top in a closely contested game. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota’s All Star post player also played well adding 27 points.

Game of Zones

New York provided an interesting wrinkle to this game by using a zone defense for long stretches. A zone defense asks defenders to guard areas of the floor rather than specific players. In general, it is used to limit dribble penetration and paint scoring, as multiple defenders can focus on the ball and trap when necessary. Typically seen in short doses in order to temporarily throw off an opponent, the Liberty instead opted to lean heavily on the scheme for the entire game.

“I really loved our persistence,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game when asked about the Liberty defense.

“We didn’t talk a lot about playing against the zone. We did see them play some zone so we were ready for some possessions, we weren’t necessarily thinking it would be an all out commitment to stay in the zone. They went zone to protect Syl and her touches. I just thought we were really good at finding her. She was so active.”

Fowles was indeed fantastic in finding the seams in the defense and her teammates lofted some wonderful lob passes her way. However the zone defense was effective in daring the Lynx to take long shots. Minnesota shot just 19% (18-42) on shots outside the paint. The only made three three pointers and Maya Moore had another ghastly shooting night going 3-15 from the field. The Lynx made just enough shots and free throws in the end to come out on top.

Starting Five Thrive

Asked before game if she would play her starters big minutes with the nine day All Star break afoot, Reeve offered a simple answer: “Win the game.”

Reeve implied that she would play whichever players she felt gave the team the best chance to win the game at hand. Those players indeed ended up being her starters. Especially against the tricky Liberty zone, the team needed its most steady-handed personnel on the floor. This included Lindsay Whalen who played 24 minutes and scored 10 points a game after being ineffective in only eight minutes Saturday night in Phoenix. Danielle Robinson, Tanisha Wright and Cecilia Zandalasini were stumped by the New York defense and did not provide much value. Minnesota relied on their veteran starting five, and they each responded by scoring in double digits for the first time this season.

As the unofficial first half of the season comes to a close the Lynx have won three straight and are feeling good going into the break. The team must now transition to hosting duties as the entire WNBA sets its sights on Minneapolis. A gauntlet awaits them on the other side. They’ll play three games in four nights, including their lone back to back situation of the season (at Los Angeles, at Seattle), before facing second place Atlanta at home.

Notes

-Stretch center and former Minnesota Gopher Amanda Zahui B had a nice game. She scored 15 points and was awesome on the glass.

-Tina Charles never ceases to amaze. Her impossible to block, high release, one-legged fade is a thing of beauty.

-I had the pleasure of sitting next to WNBA savant and all-around good guy Ben Dull during this game. He’s the latest addition to SB Nation’s WNBA coverage and will be recapping Los Angeles Sparks games over at Silver Screen and Roll for the rest of the season. Be sure to read his stuff!

Next Up

WNBA All Star weekend! The big game is Saturday afternoon. Seimone Augustus, Fowles and Moore will play. 19 other world class players will join them on the court. Make sure you’re in the house for it! The game tips at 2:30pm. You can watch on ABC or listen on SiriusXM NBA Radio.