Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lynx 79, Liberty 69: Tempo-Free Analysis

BY RAY FLORIANI

NEW YORK CITY - This time, the added session was not needed.

After dropping two straight overtime games, the New York Liberty were defeated in 40 minutes. The Minnesota Lynx raised their record to 6-0, defeating New York by the final of 79-69 at Madison Square  Garden. The Liberty are now 2-3.

It was a game the Liberty dug a hole, fought back, yet found out another reason why Minnesota was the class of the league last season, and very well could be this year as well.   

First quarter: The first five possessions gave little notice of what would be played out over the next seven minutes and 15 seconds. New York owned a 5-2 lead, and seemed to be in sync on the offensive end. The first possession saw a touch by Tina Charles while Sugar Rodgers buried a trey in that span. After that, the Minnesota Lynx gave New York fans and the Liberty a reminder regarding why they are champions of the WNBA. They did a nice defensive job on Charles inside, doubling her touches. Maya Moore scored 11 points on a variety of moves and mid-range jumpers. In one sequence, Moore reminded us, with all the sets and offensive/defensive breakdowns, sometimes you just simply play basketball. Moore boxed out grabbing a defensive rebound. She turned, heading upcourt before burying a 15-footer. The epitome of a ‘player,’ Minnesota showed a few of those in the opening ten minutes.
Score: Minnesota 28, New York 11

Second quarter: New York comes out a bit more aggressive led by Kiah Stokes. Early in the quarter, the competitive but normally ‘restrained’ Cheryl Reeve, the Minnesota mentor, gets a technical. Stokes on both ends of the floor and Shavonte Zellous on offense provide a spark for New York. The deficit is trimmed to five before the Lynx respond with several transition baskets to restore the lead to 15. You hear so much about the runs in a game and how a team responds. In this first half, Minnesota showed their championship caliber by handling the one New York fashioned early in the second quarter.
Halftime: Minnesota 46, New York 30
Possessions: Minnesota 43, New York 44
Offensive efficiency: Minnesota 107, New York 71

Third quarter: Forget the first four minutes. The initial 68 seconds told the story. Minnesota outscored the Liberty 6-0 during that juncture to increase the lead to 22. After four minutes, Minnesota held a 10-5 (second half scoring) edge and a 21-point lead. Moore was doing a good deal of the damage alongside the likes of Seimone Augustus, Renee Montgomery and Rebekkah Brunson. Tina Charles provided just about all the Liberty offense in the third quarter, but not enough to get the deficit under double digits.
Score: Minnesota 63, New York 49

Fourth quarter: Eight minutes to go, and the Liberty trail by a dozen. They have ten second half field goals at this point with seven by Charles, a clear indication added contributors were desperately needed by Bill Laimbeer’s club. Mathematically, you could say New York had a shot. Trailing by 10-12 points with five minutes left, there is an outside chance of a final run. Numbers lied. The figures told you there was that ray of hope. In reality, that 12-point deficit felt more like 22. Each time the Liberty went with Charles and had the answer, Zellous providing offensive punch, made a move, Minnesota would answer. In the waning moments, from a coaching standpoint, there were anxious moments. In the end, the Lynx exited Madison Square Garden with an unblemished 6-0 mark.
Final Score: Minnesota 79,  New York 69
Possessions: Minnesota 85, New York 84
Offensive efficiency: Minnesota 93, New York 82

Four Factors:
eFG%: Minnesota 50, New York 42
Free Throw Rate: Minnesota 32, New York 51
Offensive Rebound%: Minnesota 11, New York 18
Turnover Rate: Minnesota 15, New York 23

What Minnesota did well: Weather the Liberty runs and shoot from the field. Lynx managed one trifecta while showing proficiency at a distance thought to be extinct, the mid-range area.

What New York did well: Compete the last three quarters. Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer stressed the importance of getting off to a good start against the Lynx. The Liberty did that for just a few minutes. The remainder of that quarter was all Minnesota. The home team regrouped and played better especially on defense the last three quarters, but the damage was done.

Points and EF leaders:
Minnesota: Maya Moore, 25 points, EF 32
New York: Tina Charles, 23 points, EF 32

NOTES: Shavonte Zellous was the only other Liberty player in double figures, with 12 points. The Lynx had a total of three in double figures, with Augustus going for 13 points and Montgomery adding 10.

Laimbeer addressed the turnover problem. Not only was the Liberty rate high, they were outscored 22-8 on points off turnovers, a decided difference maker in the outcome.

FINAL THOUGHTS
“We didn’t play as hard in the first quarter as the others. Minnesota executes, comes out first quarter, but didn’t do it tonight. They (Minnesota) have good players, four Olympians. They will make shots. We gave them a lot of easy looks, they got us down. If we got them in a defensive  struggle in a halfcourt game, it could be different. It’s a catch-22 situation: Do you go away from  Tina or become over-reliant on her? Zellous gave us a lift, but we are a team struggling to score. Chemistry is fine, no issues in the locker room, but we need perimeter scoring. I told the team I have confidence in our ability to be ‘road warriors.’ Our defense can carry us through. Teams pay more attention to Sugar (Rodgers). Minnesota has big guards and they bothered her. Lindsay (Harding) is not a perimeter scorer, but can help us getting to the basket.”  - Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer

“It is a case of being conscious of little things, especially on defense. Minnesota runs a lot of screen and rolls, we made some defensive mistakes. Those little things add up. We did not come out strong tonight, but I think Zellous and Brittany Boyd gave us a tremendous lift. We are better than our (2-3) record. Bill (Laimbeer) told us after the game we won the last three quarters, (58-51) but the way we came out, we dug ourselves a hole,” - Tina Charles

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