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It’s personal between coaches as NY-Minnesota square off

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Tonight, two of the best teams in the WNBA are set to battle, but this game means more than most realize.

WNBA: Finals-Indiana Fever at Minnesota Lynx Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It was over a decade ago that New York Liberty’s veteran coach Bill Laimbeer (then Detroit Shock head coach) hired Cheryl Reeve as an assistant coach. What impressed Laimbeer eleven years ago is now knocking at his doorstep — Coach Reeve’s intensity.

Fast Forward and these two coaches are now leading two of the best teams in the WNBA. While the two coaches are great friends, their competitive spirits will be on full display on tonight at Madison Square Garden, as the Minnesota Lynx hit the road for to match off against the Liberty.

Both teams sit 1-0 in the season. They both know it's too soon to get cocky, but tonight's game will be about more than just proving something for the future, it runs much deeper, with these coaches — it’s personal.

“Everytime we play New York, Coach Reeve wants to prove herself to Coach Laimbeer,” said Seimone Augustus. “He is her mentor, so we are feeling that in practice. But we love those games, and we love how coach Reeves competes, and she is the head of our snake, and when we see her compete, it makes us want to do the same.”

Battle ready

While Minnesota has shown itself to be one of the top defensive teams in the league, the Liberty are anchored by Tina Charles in the post, ranked fourth in the WNBA in defensive rating last season. Charles is coming off of a 12 point 7 rebound game on Saturday against the San Antonio Stars.

In Wednesday’s conference call Charles said, ”Minnesota is at the top of the league, but this will be a great test for us. We have to fight and work harder. We have to be intense. It will be a good test for us early in the season.”

“We go in with the mentality that every game is a playoff game. We go hard at practice, and we challenge each other mentally and physically.”

Going into the season as the prohibitive favorite to win the WNBA Title, the Lynx want to continue their legacy of greatness, and seem hungry right out of the game. After Sunday’s win over the Chicago Sky Reeve said, “I really enjoyed the way (our team) responded. I think their effort today showed that they want to be great.”

But for a team, who has been together for so long, getting up to speed isn’t always as easy as one may think.

“I think it all takes time,” said Lindsay Whalen. “We missed some shots, that we normally make, and last Sunday in the season opener it showed us that our defense is our backbone. Things just take time. Different teams make us respond differently. So with time, we can reset some big factors in the game.”

Thursday’s matchup will be nothing short of exciting.

Anytime we play New York, we know it's going to be down to the wire,” said Whalen. “And we want to be the team that executes when the time is needed. … It will be a good one (tonight) for sure.”

Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm ET.