NEW YORK, May 18, 2017 – The Minnesota Lynx, known for their stout defense, shut down one of the WNBA’s premier scorers in Tina Charles en route to a 90-71 victory over the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden.
Charles’ first point of the game came with 3:28 left in the second quarter on a free throw. Her first basket wasn’t until 1:11 left in the third, highly uncharacteristic for the prolific center who averaged a career-high 21.5 points per game last season. She finished the night just 2-for-9 with six points.
Charles, a member of the 2016 United States Women’s National Team that won a gold medal in Rio, was also joined on that team by Lynx players Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore. Fowles occasionally guarded Charles on Thursday night at the Garden, but the Lynx as a team were very familiar with her skill set, as Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve was also an assistant on Team USA. Reeve’s defensive scheme was to throw bodies at Charles and not make anything easy on her, even if sometimes that meant sending three defenders her way once she received the ball in the post, which the Lynx tried to limit as much as possible.
“[Rebekkah Brunson] plays our defensive schemes really well, and when she wasn’t out there, the next player who was out there was pretty good … [Charles] wasn’t getting touches on the block and then she was coming away from the basket, where she got more shots. It’s kind of the lesser of evils, she’s still a great player from there, but when you’ve got here taking her second and third option shots, she had trouble making those,” Reeve said of her team’s effort against Charles.
Brunson’s teammates also sang her praises after the win.
“I think she set the tone,” center Sylvia Fowles said. “We just had a game plan of not letting her catch the ball, I mean Tina’s a phenomenal player who can do a lot of things when she gets her hands on the ball, so we just wanted to corral her as much as possible.”
Was the gameplan to limit Liberty top-gun Tina and let everyone else try to beat them?
“No. No. They’re too good for that,” Fowles emphatically said. “You just can’t worry about Tina and let everyone else roam free. Our thing was to limit Tina as much as possible, and limit everyone else.”
Well, their plan worked as they shut down one of the most versatile and creative centers in the WNBA, and thus, stuffed the Liberty’s offense by smothering them in the second half and limiting them to just 31 points.
Charles was held to single-digit scoring for the first time since June 7 of last season, when the Sparks held her to just seven points in 22 minutes. Whether it was Brunson, who many portrayed as the hero for that one-on-one matchup, or the scheme drawn up by coach Reeve, something clicked, as the Lynx took the heart of the Liberty offense out of commission on their home floor.