Professional Basketball

Liberty Board Up Lynx on ‘Whay Day’


New York Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot attempts a layup over the outstretched arms of Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier during Friday’s contest at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

New York outrebounded Minnesota 43-32, including a 16-9 offensive rebounding edge, which led to a 76-66 Liberty victory over the home Lynx in front of an announced crowd of 7,631 at Target Center on Friday night.

On a day when retired Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen’s new banner, denoting her induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, was hung from the rafters in a pregame ceremony, it would seem fitting that two teams would duke it out in grand fashion for all four quarters. Fans in attendance got to see three quarters of that kind of play.

In the opening half of the first quarter, the teams traded buckets so many times that there were five ties and four lead changes before the visiting Liberty went on a 7-0 run, thanks to key baskets by forwards Betnijah Laney and Breanna Stewart along with a three-pointer by guard Sabrina Ionescu, to gain a bit of separation. The score was 16-11 in favor of the Liberty with 5:05 remaining in the opening quarter.

Minnesota answered with free throws and a basket from forward Napheesa Collier, plus made shots by guard Kayla McBride and forward Nikolina Milic, to give Minnesota the one-point lead with 2:22 left on the clock in the first quarter. New York closed out the first with a 7-2 run to take the 25-21 lead when the quarter ended.

Milic would continue to have the hot hand for Minnesota as the second quarter got underway. She grabbed two rebounds and made two jump shots to ignite a 6-0 Lynx run which tied the game 29-29 with 6:07 left in the half.

Stewart hit a contested three-pointer over the head of Collier. A minute later, Collier stole the ball from Ionescu and scored on a transition layup. New York led 34-33.

Minnesota Lynx forward Jessica Shepard reaches for a jump ball during Friday’s game against the New York Liberty at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

The Liberty went on a 5-0 run which ended with a three-pointer by Ionescu to give them a six-point lead, but the Lynx came roaring back with a 9-2 run of their own. Minnesota led 42-41 at the half.

Laney fouled Lynx guard Lindsay Allen to being the third quarter. Allen’s two free throws gave the Lynx the 44-41 lead. It was promptly answered by a three-pointer by Ionescu to make it a 44-44 tie with 8:29 remaining in the quarter.

Then both teams went cold. Minnesota missed their next five shots and New York missed their next three. A step through finger-roll layup by Lynx guard Diamond Miller with 6:10 left on the clock ended the scoring drought. It was promptly answered by a jumper by Laney.

For the rest of the quarter, the teams went back to trading baskets again. There were three ties and five lead changes in the third quarter, which ended with New York leading 58-56 when Ionescu made a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds on the clock.

The beginning of the fourth quarter would prove to be the difference maker in the game. Lynx guard Tiffany Mitchell got hit with a foul just 12 seconds into the quarter. Four seconds later, Milic picked one up too. Nine seconds after that, forward Jessica Shepard was nailed with the team’s third foul in the quarter and would be assessed with the fourth team foul just 32 seconds later. In 57 seconds of play, Minnesota picked up four team fouls.

New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart attempts a three-point shot over the arms of Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier during Friday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

Sensing an opportunity, Liberty center Jonquel Jones crashed the boards hard. New York outrebounded the Lynx 16-4 in the fourth quarter, including an 11-1 offensive rebounding advantage. Jones pulled down five offensive rebounds and eight total rebounds in the quarter, and scored nine points on 4-for-6 shooting.

Minnesota, meanwhile, couldn’t catch a break. Shepard grabbed the team’s lone offensive rebound and scored five points in the quarter. The Lynx were outscored 18-10 in the final frame, and were outscored 76-66 when the final buzzer sounded.

Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty with 18 points, Betnijah Laney and Breanna Stewart each scored 17, and Jonquel Jones added 15 along with leading the game in rebounding with 17. New York shot 30-for-75 from the field (40 percent), 9-for-30 in three-point shooting (30 percent) and 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Minnesota was led with 18 points from Napheesa Collier, and 14 points from Kayla McBride. Jessica Shepard led the Lynx with 11 rebounds.

The Liberty outscored the Lynx 25-10 in second chance points, while the Lynx maintained a 40-38 edge in points-in-the-paint, and a 9-7 lead in fast break points. There were 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the game.

“In the first half, I really wasn’t happy with the way that we played at both ends of the floor,” said New York head coach Sandy Brondello. “In the second half, and its credit to the players, they go out there and respond in the right way. We want to win. Every time we step on the court we want to win. They [Lynx] challenged us, and I challenged them [Liberty players] to be better, and we did that.”

“Give New York credit. We didn’t get very many clean looks,” said Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve. “Defensively, I like what we did in some of our scheme. We got better as the game went on. Offensively, we still have to figure that part out. Overall, you have to make some perimeter shots to loosen things up. They [New York] did. They got that little run with Sabrina [Ionescu] knocking down some perimeters.”

Brondello credits the early fourth quarter fouls with being a help to her team’s ability to win the game.

“We were trying to establish an inside presence. We thought it was a way for us to get high quality shots. It didn’t turn out where we got very many free throws, but it did put a little bit of pressure on them and it changed the flow of the game,” said Brondello.

“We just didn’t have the collective will to do the little things that it takes to win a possession and win a game against a good team,” said Reeve. “We’re disappointed, there’s no doubt about that. But [it’s] very much controllable. Rebounding is controllable. They have no say in that, and we have all the say in it. That’s a disappointed locker room to say, for sure.”

Friday was ‘Whay Day’ for the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center. The retired Lynx guard had the words “Hall of Fame” added to her retired jersey banner in a pregame ceremony. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

Minnesota guard Kayla McBride knows that the early fourth quarter fouls had a snowball effect on the team.

“I just think that in the fourth quarter, we came out too flat. In the first 30 seconds, they [officials] called three fouls. You could just tell they [Liberty] were dictating a little more. It started with that and just trickled into our rebounds. Against a team like that, its tough to give up five shots on one possession,” said McBride.

“I don’t think that we felt like we were struggling on defense. It was more so the momentum of us playing great defense and them getting an easy shot or a foul, which hindered our ability to get back in transition, where I think we have a good advantage against them when we keep them to one and done. It was just a little bit hard for us to pick ourselves back up and have that extra surge that we needed against a team like this,” she added.

New York Liberty forward Kayla Thornton pulled down her 1,000th career rebound during the game.

“I don’t pay attention to stuff like that,” said Thornton. “I just try to come in and do my job and go about my business. Coach has always been on me to be aggressive and just be who I am.”

The New York Liberty (21-6) hosts the Las Vegas Aces (24-2) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn N.Y. at 2 p.m. CT. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Lynx (13-15) travel to the Chicago Sky (11-15) for a 7 p.m. CT matchup on Tuesday.

Recommended for you