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Lynx 94, Liberty 64: I Am The Captain Now

As the last captain standing, Napheesa Collier steers the SS Lynx to a victory.

New York Liberty v Minnsesota Lynx Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s Note: I want to give a major shoutout (and thank you) to one of our own — Leo S. — for stepping in last minute to recap the Lynx/Liberty game yesterday. This is @YoLeo’s first official game recap, and with any luck, you’ll be seeing more of his work around here this fall. 500 Canis points to Leo for coming in clutch (and great recap, man!)

Losing co-captain Karima Christmas-Kelly to a season-ending injury? Ouch.

Losing co-captain and former MVP Sylvia Fowles indefinitely to an injury? Oof.

But losing all 3 of our captains during the same season? That’s where we draw the line.

Exactly ten days ago, the Minnesota Lynx steamrolled the New York Liberty in a 26-point blowout which featured a 27-6 3rd quarter that put the game away for good. You might remember that as “The Bridget Carleton” game where she went off for a 25-7-3 line, or the “Lexie Brown Is A Thief” game where she tied a franchise record with 7 steals. Would this game bear a similar result, or would New York put it all together after a close loss versus the Indiana Fever two days ago?

Saturday’s game opened with the now lone, but active, team captain Napheesa Collier corralling the Liberty’s first missed shot attempt, storming down the court with the ball, and finishing a tough little contested jumper in the paint. If this first sequence wasn’t foreshadowing of what was to come, then I’m not the world’s biggest Ricky Rubio fan.

Joining Collier in the party was Damiris Dantas, who chipped in five quick perimeter points as well, but New York was still able to keep the game close early with three wide open shots in the paint. Lynx Nation collectively sighed in disappointment, anticipating what looked to be yet another Fowles-less game where the opposition would get whatever they wanted inside. But what the Lynx collective could celebrate was the fact that Coach Reeve, who just welcomed her son Oliver into the Orlando bubble, was finally able to successfully implement Collier into the offense early and often. She was noticeably active getting up four shots in the first four minutes, with mixed results.

It was a back-and-forth first quarter until our opening day starting point guard Shenise Johnson checked into the game for the first time since she pulled her hamstring a few weeks back. This was notable because Odyssey Sims still looked two steps slow out there and it’s very apparent she’s not in game shape yet. Sims scored a wild and-1 reverse lay-up, screaming in what seemed to be like an attempt to fire herself up.

Unfortunately, it did not work (she would finish the game shooting just 1-for-10).

What did work was “Moe$” providing a spark off the bench and looking pretty healthy, helping the Lynx get through the opening quarter with a 25-20 lead.

Captain Collier would play every single minute of the first quarter and lead all players with 10 points, to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists to boot. And I have to add, she scored a number of her field goals on these (legal?) up-and-under shots. There’s a joke somewhere in there about captains and 4th grade literature.

Minnesota was able to stretch the lead out a bit in the 2nd quarter thanks to playing some D&D (Dantas & Dangerfield), but a lot of credit has to go to either Minnesota’s defense or New York’s cold shooting (probably both).

The overall officiating in this game was interesting to the say the least. There was a five minute span in the quarter where the Liberty were called for a technical foul, followed by an away from the play foul, and then a very late and questionable foul call on a Dangerfield jumper which led to the Lynx first double-digit lead of the game. Two of New York’s primary scorers, Amanda Zahui B and Kia Nurse, were completely taken out of the game. The former had some early foul trouble and scored just one 3-pointer (her only 3 points of the half) despite shooting 18-for-33 (54.5%) in her last five games from beyond the arc. Kia Nurse, who was fresh off a season high 21-point effort against Indiana, was held to 0-for-4 shooting. The half came to a close with the Lynx up 42-33, holding New York to a putrid 33.3% on field goals with none of their players in double figures.

As usual, Coach Reeve was able to make some great second half adjustments as the Lynx came out guns blazing. They scored eleven unanswered points as the Liberty would continue to struggle to find an offensive rhythm. New York would hit a few perimeter jumpshots to try and keep pace with Minnesota, but the rest of Collier’s crew would follow her lead and push the Lynx forward. As the narrative of the game finally took shape, it was last year’s Rookie of the Year who would shine as the most dominant player on the court, scoring at all three levels while doing the typical Napheesa things on defense. The ball was humming on offense and shots were falling, as Dangerfield would continue her emergence as a leader for this team, scoring 15 of her 22 points in the second half.

They would win the quarter 26-16 and earn themselves a 19-point lead heading towards the finish line, although it certainly felt like it should’ve been closer to a 25-30 point advantage if it were not for some sloppy play to end the quarter.

Time for some good news, bad news.

The bad news? The Lynx would commit five turnovers in the first four minutes of the 4th quarter.

The good news? The Liberty (pardon my language) sucked. They played like a team with a 1-8 record who had just lost three straight and desperately missed their prize top pick. Fellow rookie Jazmine Jones would be the only player for New York who would score in the first half of the final quarter (she scored three points during that time). Let’s put it this way, the Lynx could’ve scored zero points in the final period and they still would’ve won by two possessions.

But Minnesota would go on to score 26 points. “KiKi” would score nine of those points in the final period and her jumpshot looked very comfortable.

It was all academic by the time Captain Collier and First Mate Dangerfield checked out of the game with 4:09 left in the game, as the tremendous twosome combined to score 48 points (on a scintillating 63% shooting), collect 14 boards, and dish out 9 total assists.

So far this season, the Lynx have kept up with the Sparks in the standings (7-3), although Minnesota is technically undefeated with Oliver Reeve in attendance. After playing six games in eleven days, the Lynx finally get some much needed rest with the next three days off.

Overall, I think we can all be proud of how our Lynx have looked nearly halfway (10 games) through the 22-game shortened season. Who knows when Big Syl will return, but until then, we can be optimistic with Captain Collier at the helm!

Next up: The 3-7 Dallas Wings led by WNBA league-leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale and rookie sensation Satou Sabally await the Lynx next Wednesday (8/19) at 8:00 p.m. CT.