St. Paul, MN — A tale of two halves. It was the best of the centers; it was the worst of centers. It was complacent defense, it was a tough defense, and Tuesday night definitely proved to show a game can have two very different styles of play in the midst of 40 minutes.
The New York Liberty’s Tina Charles was slicing apart the Lynx defense early in the night, scoring 20 points in the first half alone. She was in the paint, behind the arc, cutting through defenders, anywhere you could think of scoring, Charles was there, delivering the goods for New York.
The game went back and forth all throughout the first 20 minutes of play. Minnesota looked sloppy with the ball, having many careless turnovers — and some awful shot attempts.
“Unfortunately [we] kind of got ground down into a halt with our offense. I thought we were kind of walking around, I don’t think we were very hard to play against,” said Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve.
The Lynx’s defense seemed tired, giving the Liberty second and third shot attempts on most possessions, and they struggled mightily to get out on shooters, helping New York to many open looks at the basket.
“I thought New York was playing with a greater sense of urgency, their cutting, and their defense. So, that just slowed us down, all we had to do was execute a couple times on offense to keep our separation and we just couldn’t get that done,” said Reeve.
The Liberty continued to play strong in the third quarter, determined to close the eight-point deficit from halftime. This time, the points were coming from everyone but Charles. Epiphanny Prince ended the game with 19 points, more than doubling her productivity from the first half, and Rebecca Allen scored eight points off the bench.
Recently named All-Star MVP, Minnesota’s Maya Moore, created momentum in the third stanza, by snatching quick steals and making big play after big play. She had an infectious way of pulling her team up with her. This mentality resulted in 27 points, proving to everyone just how she earned her new title.
“When our team grows, the great players on this team grow. So I’ve been trying to just find my rhythm, play off of my defense and I think that’s what you saw tonight,” said Moore.
Going into the final 54.4 seconds of play, the game was tied 74-74. Both teams armed with hot players, and no room for error. As the Rocky music started to play throughout the arena, tension rose on the court.
The whistle blew, and the Lynx’s guard Lindsay Whalen received the ball and drove baseline. She turned left with a defender in her face and pulled up to make the clutch fadeaway jumper, putting Minnesota up two.
Little did Whalen know, that would be the game-winning basket…
Prince was fouled on the Liberty’s end shortly after, but only secured one of the two free throws and New York was still down by one point. It all came down to one last play, with 15.1 seconds left, and again New York had the ball.
Their planned play went almost perfectly, unfortunately, the Liberty’s Sugar Rodgers missed her shot from the top of the key and New York simply ran out of time.
“You never know what shot, what stop, which deflection is going to be the one to seal the game,” said Moore.
“By 1 or by 21,” Reeve added after the game referring to what Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer used to tell her.
Fortunately for Reeve and the Lynx, they were on the top of that one-point win, 76-75. Next time they may not be so lucky, as the Liberty will seek justice one more time later this season.