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Liberty 86, Lynx 75: Identity Crisis

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Sabrina Ionescu notches the 9th triple double in league history and sends Minnesota to 0-2.

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are.”

Lynx head coach/GM Cheryl Reeve could have stopped there during her postgame press conference following her team’s defeat in Brooklyn Tuesday night. The Lynx are missing Napheesa Collier, integrating six players who didn’t play for Minnesota last season, and working on the fitness of their legs and lungs. It’s far too early to panic. WNBA champions aren’t made in May. But its been a disappointing start for a team with high hopes this season.

The opposite can be said for the New York Liberty who have come out of the gates hot and are now 3-0. Their offense is humming due to the floor-bending abilities of second year player Sabrina Ionescu. She’s a lethal shooter with the instincts and IQ to find the open player while the defense focuses on her. Free agent signee Betnijah Laney has also been magnificent in New York’s opening week with her do-it-all stylings. Unlike the Lynx the Liberty are already a well-oiled machine offensively. Save for some of their turnover issues, New York plays extremely well in their deceptively simple pick-and-roll-heavy system. Despite her game-high 26 points, Minnesota did a pretty good job containing the initial pick-and-roll action. Unfortunately they did a poor job with weak-side cutters and closing out to open shooters. In addition to her 26 points Ionescu had 10 rebounds and 12 assists, five of which were for three pointers.

“We lacked multiple efforts on defense,” Reeve said postgame. “I think they smelled blood as terms of where we were and our lack of ability to make the next rotation that was necessary. They moved the ball extremely well. They know what they’re trying to get they know where the help is coming from. We just didnt give multiple efforts: help and recover , help the helper and scramble around timely. Everything was late.”

Meanwhile the Lynx offense remains in disrepair. There is an alarming lack of fluidity and ball movement. The team’s unfamiliarity with each other is apparent on this end of the floor. The synergy and connection between Minnesota players is obviously missing. It was another cold shooting game as well with the Lynx only connecting on 3 of 25 threes. They’ve shot only 20% from beyond the arc in their first two games.

The lone bright spot offensively was Sylvia Fowles establishing herself in the paint. Going up against second year center Kylee Shook, Fowles was able to get a good shot every single time she touched the ball. Her teammates did a great job finding her in the post and also worked the glass on her way to 26 points and 11 rebounds. Good to see Sweet Syl get going as she returns from an injury-plagued 2020 season.

While the year is still young, the Lynx will need to get themselves together quickly. The WNBA season moves fast and the team is looking down the barrel at two straight games against the reigning champs. A week off between those two games should be helpful in terms of practice and cohesion time. Let’s hope Minnesota’s identity reveals itself soon.

Notes

Crystal Dangerfield came off the bench in this game and it doesn’t seem like a one-time thing. With so much in flux right now with the Lynx roster, we might see some tweaking and experimenting as they work in Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride into their backcourt.

Natalie Achonwa sat this one out with a minor knee injury. Reeve called her day-to-day before the game. Playing Fowles fewer minutes has been a goal for the team for years and this injury doesn’t help.

Jess Shepard was another player who had a good game in New York. She came off the bench backing up Damiris Dantas and did a nice job crashing the glass and being a ball mover. Great to see her healthy after two years away.

Next Up

Minnesota will head back home to face the Seattle Storm on Thursday night. Tip-off is set for 7pm ct and you can watch on NBATV or JOETV.