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Lynx 74, Liberty 66: Share, Support, Survive

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The home team Lynx hang on to defeat the visiting Liberty on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.

New York Liberty v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

This evening was one that was bigger than basketball.

The Minnesota Lynx, who are no strangers to championing social issues, were holding their annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Target Center as they welcomed the visiting New York Liberty on Tuesday evening. Among the many donations and efforts tonight, such as recognizing breast cancer survivors Lu Fischer, Kayla Van Der Weerd, Lutricia Vincent, and Reona Berry, the Fastbreak Foundation would be partnering with the African American Breast Cancer Alliance (AABCA) to help increase awareness of early breast cancer detection to specifically the Black and African American populations. Reona Berry, AABCA co-founder, shared:

Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S. From its inception, we have been committed to sharing crucial and life affirming information about breast cancer to promote the benefits of early detection and treatment... This ($10K Lynx) grant supports patient and family programs from educational resources to survivorship. And most importantly allows us to continue to ‘Share, Support, Survive.’

As we continue to enjoy the superb on-the-court product that these amazing players display night in and night out, majority who identify as Black/African American women, let’s continue to support them as more than just athletes. There are a plethora of ways you can help support the cause and an easy way to do so is by clicking here to donate to the AABCA. Donations can range from $5.00 to $100.00. If you choose to do so, let’s all continue to share, support, and survive together.

Game Story

The Lynx entered tonight’s game looking to chase down the Seattle Storm, who were just 1 game ahead of them for the 3rd seed. With one of the most favorable schedules remaining, things were coming up all Minnesota especially considering they were coming off a full week of rest and basically at full strength, health-wise.

Oh, what I fool I was.

Although nothing appears to be too serious or long-term, news broke that the Lynx would be missing the services of two of their best players/starters, Layshia Clarendon (lower leg) and Sylvia Fowles (shoulder), tonight. Per Coach Cheryl Reeve, former may have a potential stress reaction in her tibia.

“She had a soreness that wasn’t a concern of anybody’s, and then with days off, she tried to go again, and she felt this pain. We don’t want to take any chances, so let’s take precautions now... Shin. Stress reaction in her shin, tibia... Hopefully not a fracture, but a stress reaction... I don’t think there’s further tests needed. We went through all the tests and everything, so for now, you gotta rest it. Unfortunate obviously.”

Meanwhile with our former MVP, it appeared that she took a mild spill during practice recently and landed on her left shoulder. She had also been dealing with an on-going hand injury so at this point, this absence seemed to be more precautionary as she was ruled out during shootaround.

Although Napheesa Collier was “healthy” for tonight’s game, she too has been battling a nagging foot injury. Reeve shared some details that also didn’t make it sound great.

“It’s not basic plantar fasciitis... There’s some shit going on in there. She had a situation last year and got a PRP injection over the offseason. That side’s good... She’s been battling it all season. With plantar fasciitis, you gotta keep going. Once you stop, that’s when it’s problematic, so she’s not coming out.

*deep breath*

The home team would have to channel their own version of sharing, supporting, and surviving together.

Share

With two leaders out of the game, many expected Napheesa Collier to have a big night, it was actually Kayla McBride who buoyed the Lynx on offense. The majority of her game-high 25 points came in the first half as she was on fire from both in and outside of the arc. Her defensive intensity was also great, often having to play out of position guarding 1-5.

Although Phee would struggle against the defense of former Lynx champion Natasha Howard, her “off-night” would still be 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 steals. How blessed we are to be able to watch this budding superstar night in and night out. As Coach Reeve mentioned in the post-game, “The thing about Phee is that she never quits playing... she’s had a cold for about 2 weeks now.” Amazing. It was evident from the tip that the pair of Collier and McBride would be sharing the leadership role tonight.

Support

Although Collier and McBride were the only 2 players on either team to exceed the 20 point marker tonight, they needed all the support they could get. Boy, did they get it. Already thin with the guard rotation, Crystal Dangerfield would pick up 2 early fouls to send her to the bench. The good news? Her replacement, Rachel Banham, was phenomenal all night. The Minnesota native played some inspired basketball, dealing with Sabrina Ionescu’s offensive fouling fencing all evening. Banham clearly stepped up to the challenge and although her final line of 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 5 assists doesn’t look impressive, she was shooting confidently and making the right reads all night. Coach Reeve highlighted in the presser, “She’s the second best point guard on the team.”

The additional scoring punch came from Aerial Powers, who was playing in just her 2nd game back after her thumb surgery. There were still moments of rust, but her aggressiveness in the 2nd half would help the Lynx widen a narrow lead as evidenced by her team-high tying 7 free throw attempts. AP was the only other Lynx to hit double digit scoring. Reeve shared post game that AP’s ability to score the ball is what she brings most to the team, in addition to her (sometimes misdirected) energy.

Last and certainly not least was the presence of Jessica Shepard and Bridget Carleton. Our very own Jack Borman put out a must-read piece on Carleton yesterday (which Coach Reeve actually mentioned postgame which she thought about mid-game), but she continued to display why there wouldn’t be the LynX with her as the X-factor. Carl hit a dagger of a 3-pointer which hit the rim, bounced about 5 feet in the air, then dropped through the rim without touching nylon. That shot pushed Minnesota back up 5 just a possession after Ionescu had sliced the lead to 2 on her own contested three pointer. You certainly cannot highlight the Lynx effort without giving all the praise to Jess Shepard though. With Syl out, Collier extremely fatigued, and Achonwa largely unhealthy/ineffective, Jess played 19 minutes and inhaled 8 rebounds. Though that may not sound like much, the number of additional possessions she earned the Lynx was absolutely critical. Without Jess, I’m positive that New York walks away with a victory.

The bench won the scoring battle 25 to 6.

Speaking of support, we also had a few familiar faces in attendance tonight!

Survive

Down 2 starters already, the Lynx would actually end up losing a third one. In the 3rd quarter, starting power forward Damiris Dantas would go down with a scary non-contact injury after landing awkwardly on her right foot. It was shared after the game that although the extent of her injury is not known yet, Coach Reeve indicated that it’s likely not good and that she would be out for some time. Jack pointed out there were roughly 27 lineups that Coach Reeve rolled out tonight and it looks likely to continue to grow due to injuries.

Christ.

Meanwhile, the majority of this game was a slow slog as both teams were either playing amazing defense, or ineffective offense, but most likely somewhere in the middle. The final numbers surely matched what I saw on my screen tonight: Both teams shot under 35% from the field.

By the 4th quarter, the Lynx were figuratively dodging bullets out there as they were able to skate to a hard-earned victory.

What’s Next

Minnesota gets a day off before they welcome their ol’ friends, the Los Angeles Sparks (10-17), to Target Center on Thursday, September 2 at 7:00pm CT (NBA TV). The Sparks are desperate for wins, as they are riding a 4-game losing streak and are quickly running out of time to earn a playoff berth after dropping a game to the last place Indiana Fever tonight. If they continue their slide and end up missing the postseason, it would be the first time Los Angeles misses the dance since 2011.

The Lynx are 2-0 against the Sparks this season, boasting a whopping 20.5 point average margin of victory. Why not do them a solid and help LA start their vacation a bit sooner?