The New York Liberty talk about winning championships. There is no doubt that the desire and the material is there. But across from them were the Minnesota Lynx, three-time WNBA champions who showed what a championship team looks like. They dismantled the Liberty 90-71 last night at Madison Square Garden and sent an early statement on who is polished and who is still a work in progress.
“I thought we were going to come here and show up and show out but we didn’t do that, ” Sugar Rodgers said.
Tina Charles, we learned was not well, which shifted the scoring burden for the Liberty to their three point specialist, Sugar Rodgers. She would share the floor with a fellow Georgetown alumus, abeit eight years of separation and former teammate Rebekkah Brunson of the Lynx.
Sugar, who last year had a memorable thirty point night in Minnesota when Charles was out, started off in the first half looking to duplicate that feat.
Rodgers popped in 19 points to keep New York within three points at the intermission. The former all-time Georgetown scorer helped keep the Liberty within shouting distance. But Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve was determined to shut her down in the second half. It worked as Rodgers scored only a single point thereafter.
“We had some lapses in assignments,” Reeves said, “Sugar (Rodgers) running free for most of the first half, we fixed that in the second half.” Sugar expected them to focus harder on her. “They’re a great team and they know how to make adjustments,” Rodgers said, “If a player is going off they don’t want them to go off anymore.”
But after New York took that early 8-0 lead, the Lynx quality started to show throughout the half and especially in a dominant third quarter. The difference between the two was rebounding. Brunson, Georgetown’s all-time rebounder and four-time WNBA champion, had four on the evening which put her a single board away from becoming the fifth player to record 3000+ career rebounds in the WNBA.
She is only 13 behind Taj McWilliams-Franklin (3013) for fourth on the all-time rebounding list. Brunson also recorded 11 points as well, one of five Lynx players to hit double digits while keeping their May undefeated run intact.
Sugar is the lone player on the Liberty to experience a WNBA Championship though she had a limited contribution to it in Minnesota. She was Brunson’s teammate on the 2013 champion. Sugar, as an observer, saw what it took to be at that level. “We know they’re a great team.
We’re trying to get on that level,” Rodgers said, “We’re holding people accountable across the board.”
Every scorer needs a strong partner and Rodgers got that from backcourt mate Brittany Boyd who was the only other New York player in double digits who carried the second half load with 14 of her 16 points tallied there. But the price was steep as Boyd’s foot gave out in the 4th quarter short-circuiting any possible comeback.
The results of the MRI today was a torn left Achilles tendon which will necessitate surgery to repair. This was a major blow to New York. “Brittany suffered an unfortunate injury after working hard to come into this season prepared to lead our team from the point guard position,” Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer said.”
The Liberty now stand at 1-1 and embark on a two-game road trip to Phoenix Tuesday and Seattle Friday before returning to Madison Square Garden on May 30th against the defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks.