Game Preview: Liberty @ Lynx

By Ros Gold-Onwude

The New York Liberty (4-7) travel to Minnesota to play the Lynx (10-1) Thursday, June 21 at 8pm. The Liberty are in pursuit of their first win against a Western Conference opponent and first win against the Lynx this season. The game will be available on WNBA LiveAccess.

New York bounced back from a bad loss in Connecticut with a 73- 60 road win against the Atlanta Dream. Both teams played without one of their star players. The Dream played without Angel McCoughtry due to a sprained knee and the Liberty played without relentless worker Plenette Pierson due to a calf injury. With a spot in the top four of the Eastern Conference Standings on the line, New York stepped up by showcasing a balanced attack. Cappie Pondexter produced a well-rounded stat line of 14 points, a whopping 13 assists, and 6 rebounds. Leilani Mitchell added her own balanced stat line of 10 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. Essence Carson continued to impress contributing 14 points, and 5 rebounds.

Plenette Pierson’s injury appears to be a nagging one and she may be out for the count again this Thursday. Hey injury means increased opportunity for other post players like DeMya Walker, who replaced Pierson in the starting lineup, and Kia Vaughn. Vaughn, the 2011 WNBA Most Improved Player added 12 points and 5 rebounds in Tuesday’s victory. Kia Vaughn is the physically strongest player on the Liberty squad, with good height and body control. She is quick, at her best when close to the rim, aggressive, and works hard for second and third chance opportunities. Each season she has improved her shooting touch and is finding success rolling or slipping in the Liberty’s pick and roll offense. In practice you can hear her directing and encouraging her teammates; Vaughn, though young, is one of the team leaders.

Early in the season, the Liberty lost to the Lynx 80-62 at home on May 22nd. Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson led the Liberty with 15 and 13 points, respectively. The Liberty did not have an answer for Seimone Augustus as she went off for 22 points. Maya Moore put out a strong performance of 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Four Lynx players scored in double digits. The Liberty were outrebounded 38- 31, shot 33% from the field, 25% from three, and were limited to only 7 assists.

Minnesota boasted the best start in WNBA history with 10 wins in a row before suffering a 65-62 loss to the Seattle Storm Sunday, June 17th. The Lynx and Storm were nearly identical in many categories: The Lynx had 16 assists while forcing 16 turnovers out of the Storm. The Storm had 17 assists while forcing 17 turnovers out of the Lynx. The Lynx even out rebounded the Storm 34-27. In spite of these numbers Seattle was able to pull off the upset because the Lynx shot the ball poorly. Minnesota shot 37% from the field and 25% from the three-point line. Even with those numbers, the Lynx still managed to come back from a 17 point first half deficit to keep the game close. The Lynx are a dangerous offensive machine with options inside, out, and on the run. They are typically unselfish and efficient, leading the league in assists, field goal percentage, and three point field goal percentage. The Liberty can attempt to achieve similar results as the Storm by locking down in Coach Whisenant’s “White Line” style defense. The Liberty hope to force the Lynx into bad contested shots against help-side defense and low shot clock situations.

The Lynx are led by the long and lanky All-Star Seimone Augustus’s 17 points per game. Maya Moore adds tremendous strength and athleticism on the wing to average 14 points per game. Lindsay Whalen is one of the top point guards in the league netting nearly 11 points, dropping about 5 dimes and grabbing 4 rebounds per game. While Taj McWilliams-Franklin helps to clean the glass snagging 5 rebounds per game, the force inside is Rebekkah Brunson averaging 12 points per game and a very solid 7.9 rebounds per game- good for 5th in the league.

On occasion you will find Seimone Augustus guarding Cappie Pondexter on the wing. In their May 22nd meeting the strategy of putting size and length on the explosive Pondexter slowed her down and disrupted how aggressive Cappie was offensively. The Liberty are the underdog in Thursday’s matchup and New York needs Cappie to find good shots, take good shots, and make good shots, consistently, to pull off the upset on the road. This becomes especially important if Plenette Pierson is unable to play again due to injury. So yea… no pressure, Cappie.