Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Moore Leads Minnesota to Lopsided 90-71 Win at New York

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK – To take on an old phrase by reversing it and playing on the word – Magnificent to the Core.

That would be the Minnesota Lynx, holders of three WNBA championships in the last six years and by an eyelash just missed a fourth at the finish to the Los Angeles Sparks last season.

The Lynx, with a veteran lineup that’s been together quite a while, fended off the New York Liberty here on the road in Madison Square Garden Thursday night with a collection of spurts that put the Western Conference group at 2-0 in the young season while the home team took its first loss to drop to 1-1 and suffered a roster loss with California grad Brittany Boyd suffering an Achilles tendon injury.

It was bad business as usual for New York in the front part of the season where a a history of mishaps have occurred, one even to former UConn great Rebecca Lobo, and one recently two years ago to Rebecca Allen of Australia.

Speaking of bad, the two losses, the one in the standings and the one likely off the roster, pending an MRI in the wake of the fourth quarter mishap, ruined the birthday of “Bad Boy” Bill Laimbeer, the Liberty coach who starred for the NBA Pistons in Detroit’s Bad Boy era winning several NBA titles.

Laimbeer acknowledge the injury to be related to Achilles but deferred any speculation until results from Friday’s examination of Boyd is known.

Despite wins on the weekend to launch the WNBA’s 21st season, both coaches were not in a pleasant mood over each team’s performance.

Laimbeer was back on the stump with more of the same campaign lingo after his team got trumped Thursday, allowing those runs and a reversal of the Liberty’s fortune that saw the New Yorkers hit the locker room down just 43-40 after two periods.

“Execution,” Laimbeer returned to a familiar theme from Saturday’s struggle to win here over the depleted San Antonio Silver Stars, whose No. 1 overall draft pick Kelsey Plum, the NCAA scoring record breaker out of Washington, was held out the first two games due to an ankle sprain.

“We didn’t execute appropriately. We didn’t run our plays the way we’d been working all week in practice. We have to be more disciplined and we weren’t tonight. And against a good team you have to execute every time or you’re going to get beat.”

Though Georgetown grad and now veteran Sugar Rodgers had a game high 20 points, 19 of those came before the half and then Minnesota found a way during the the break to clean up that problem, defensively.

Tina Charles, the former UConn star of New York who was held under double digits just once all last summer, scored just six points and the Liberty as a team were held to 35.3 percent from the field, a defensive statistic on the Lynx side that when they hold teams under 40 percent, which was the 36th straight time since 2011, the Lynx are 85-1.

The 19-point differential was Minnesota’s biggest here though several summers ago when the two played across the Hudson River at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., during the MSG upgrade, the all-time rout by 26 in the series was achieved on Aug. 27, 2013, by a score of 73-47.

“Tina was sick the last couple of days, she wasn’t able to play her way through it and that hurt us big time because that is our normal go-to player,” Laimbeer said.

Boyd had 16 points, shooting 60-for-10 from the field in 15 minutes, 48 seconds of play before getting hurt.

Minnesota, meanwhile, had a scoring fiesta, tying a record for the franchise with seven different players connecting on three-point attempts.

The entire starting lineup was in double figures led by another UConn great in Maya Moore, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sylvia Fowles had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Lindsay Whalen had 12 points and dealt five assists, and Rebekkah Brunson, another Georgetown alum, and Seimone Augustus each scored 11.

Natasha Howard and Renee Montgomery each scored seven points as the Lynx showed depth getting 28 points from the bench.

Brunson, a rebounding machine as is Fowles, with four fell just one sort of becoming the fifth player in WNBA history to collecting 3000 or more off the backboards.

“We had some lapses in assignments,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve described the early action. “Sugar Rodgers running free in the first half, we fixed that in the second half. We were good on offense, just keeping it simple. Don’t over think it.

“We are a great defensive team, for the most part we played defense pretty well. The balance of what we did was really, really good.”

Reeve, a former La Salle star in Philadelphia, who is from South Jersey across the Delaware River, was once an assistant to Laimbeer with the former Detroit Shock and he helped her land the Minnesota job when he was part of the NBA Timber Wolves organization.

She knew Laimbeer had been an unhappy camper in Saturday’s opener.

“We knew how New York felt about the game, what they were going to do,” she said. “And we responded to that and had great energy from start to finish.”

Reeve had 12 people at the game, including some former La Salle people from her era, which usually happens when the Garden is considered the key homecoming stop of the three seaboard visits that also including games in Washington against the Mystics and at Connecticut against the Sun.

She also told the Guru she has yet to hear from USA Basketball on whether she might be appointed as a national aide to Dawn Staley, the NCAA championship coach who will head USA Basketball’s World Championship and Olympic efforts.

“I know they are starting to consider the staff,” Reeve said. “You know I would do anything for Dawn.”

Reeve coached Staley as an assistant when both were with the former Charlotte Sting and both served last summer on the staff of Geno Auriemma when USA won another Olympic gold medal, this time in Rio in Brazil.

Moore, and three other Lynx players, Whalen, Fowles, and Augustus were on the USA squad.

Moore said of Thursday’s win, “I’m just glad to see us make movements from game one to game two,” she said. “There was a lot of energy in the building today so I think once we put some stops together in the fourth quarter, we were able to defend the lead.

“We played with great poise and were able to open up a lead.”

Minnesota will next stay on the road to visit the Dallas Wings on Saturday while New York begins a road trip West on Tuesday visiting the Phoenix Mercury.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the game here was the only one on the league slate. On Friday night, the Atlanta Dream at 1-0 visits the 0-1 Chicago Sky, which fell to Minnesota on the road last weekend.

Phoenix at 1-1 visits 0-2 San Antonio, who is hopeful of having Plum ready for the home opener in Texas.

Washington steps up after following up New York on the weekend openers, beating San Antonio, by visiting the Los Angeles Sparks, who will have their championship ring ceremony before the game, now that everyone will have returned from their overseas offseason commitments.

On Saturday, Connecticut, which fell to Atlanta in the Sun’s home opener to go 0-1, which visit Indiana seeking a first win, while likewise the Fever, which is off to an 0-2 start.

Minnesota at Dallas was already mentioned.

Chicago turns right around to visit Atlanta Sunday and Washington moves on to Seattle, so much more will be known by the end of the weekend the real state of improvement of the Mystics, who now have Elena Delle Donne in the fold.

The league is dark on Monday and the other Tuesday game has the Sun staying on the road visiting Minnesota.

The Lynx could still be unbeaten by then and it would not be presumptive to start counting down Minnesota’s magic number to clinch another playoff spot.


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