Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lynx 79, Liberty 69: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

New York City - It was about two months back, but it seemed like two days.

George Washington captured the National Invitation Tournament and an on-floor celebration began. It was the most recent trip to the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ by yours truly. The last breath of winter was giving way to the fresh breezes of spring. Now, the spring is long forgotten, except for the calendar. Temperatures have lingered in the nineties. The cool air conditioning of the train ride to New York gives way to the heat of the final station.

Summer basketball is upon us with the New York Liberty. On this night after Memorial Day, the Liberty battled the undefeated and WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. It seemed like another matchup perfect for the Garden. The two almost met in last year’s WNBA championship. Putting the ‘what-ifs’ aside, the Liberty wanted this to snap a two-overtime-game losing streak, but more importantly, to reiterate their intention of being in the championship conversation for the long haul.

A slow start coupled with too many turnovers and too few contributors offensively spelled a 79-69 setback for the Liberty. They fell to 2-3 as Minnesota exited a perfect 6-0.
The Garden magic and aura did little to help the Liberty’s cause on this hot night. There is no guarantee it will be a ‘difference maker’ in the final score. It does, however, leave an impression to all venturing here. To the fans and media, it always excites. During the contest, thoughts of March’s Big East Tournament and NIT constantly came to mind. There is a ‘Garden of Memories,’ and the Garden never seems to stop adding to them. The players, as well traveled and experienced, always find a hop in their step on the hallowed MSG court.

Maya Moore of Minnesota led her team with a game-high 25 points and countless big plays. She has done it all, with the pinnacle of success as a titlist in the WNBA and as a national champion at UConn. Accolades aside, the Garden is still special to her, as she explained in the Lynx locker room.

“I think it is special anytime you play here,” she said. “It is one of the special places where there have been many events, but basketball has a great tradition and history. Growing up as a basketball fan, it was amazing following some of those who played here. The fans here seem to have a combination of love and appreciation of the game. That adds to it. This is simply a place you just want to be at your very best when you walk out on that floor.”

As eloquent as her performance.

The sun sets on the day, with the New York background providing a picturesque contrast:
Bill Laimbeer and his staff ponder the Liberty's next move:
A break during a two-shot foul situation:
A panoramic view of Madison Square Garden:
Maya Moore, a picture of free throw concentration:
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer meets the media:

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