Maya Moore scored a game-high 25 points and six rebounds to lead the Minnesota Lynx to a 79-69 victory over the New York Liberty, tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Lynx improve to 6-0 on the season.
Tina Charles finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Liberty, and it was the fifth consecutive double-double for Charles. New York, however, turned the ball over tonight 19 times and continued to struggle on offense. For the Liberty, tonight was their third straight defeat, their record drops to 2-3.
The high-powered offense, of Minnesota, was on display early at the Garden tonight. The Lynx, led by Moore, ripped off a 17-2 run to close out the first quarter with a 28-11 lead. It was an early knockdown punch New York would not recover from.
“We didn’t play as hard as we had to, in the first quarter, as we did in quarters two, three, and four.” a very calm Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer said afterwards. “ I warned the team, before the game started, Minnesota is a very big first quarter team, they execute so well.
Moore picked up her second foul, with 8:59 left in the half, and the Liberty made an attempt to capitalize. New York would outscore Minnesota, 11-3, with Moore on the bench. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve would pick up a technical foul for apparently arguing with the referees, who called a tight game throughout, with a few questionable foul calls along the way.
Just as the Liberty were beginning to establish some momentum, Moore checked back in for Minnesota. Shortly afterwards, Moore would connect on a turnaround jumper to ignite a 16-6 run by the Lynx to close out the first half.
New York’s defense came into tonight’s game ranked first in field goal percentage allowed, at 33.9 percent. The Lynx shot 52.8 percent from the field in the first half, including outscoring the Liberty, 18-6, on points in the paint.
“Their going to make shots,” said Laimbeer. “ In the first quarter, we gave them too many easy looks. We didn’t have the necessary defensive intensity in the first quarter and they got us down. Their good front runners, once they get their confidence they make a lot of shots. You get them in a tight defensive struggle and a half-court game, they struggle also, but weren’t able to do that.”
Inconsistency on offense remains a problem area for the Liberty. Head coach Bill Laimbeer has been growing increasingly concerned with their lack of execution. There was a handful of missed scoring opportunities, tonight, under the basket.
Charles scored 16 of her 23 points in the second half. However, the Liberty need one or two more players to step up and help take the load off of their star player. Sugar Rodgers has cooled off from her hot start to the season, most likely due to opponents beginning to key-in on her from the start. Rodgers finished tonight with nine points on 3 of 8 shooting.
“We struggle to score,” Laimbeer would say afterwards. “Our shooting percentage is not very good. We have to find some ways to score and take the pressure off our defense.
New York’s defense had no answer for Moore tonight, and there were times she simply made everything she did look easy and effortlessly. Then there were the times Moore was relentless in her drives to the basket, getting the paint and creating havoc.
Moore scored 11 of her 25 points in the opening quarter, this set the tone for the rest of the night. When the All-Star wasn’t knocking down jumpers, she was breaking down the Liberty’s defense which led to high percentage shots for her teammates.
Seimone Augustus added 13 points for Minnesota, their depth is a major reason they’re off to such a hot start.
The Liberty must regroup again and begin to get ready for their next game, Friday night, against the Indiana Fever, at the Garden. New York will then go on the road for six of their next seven games. A loss to Indiana on Friday night could send red flags up and thin out their margin for error.