New York Liberty-Minnesota Lynx: Three takeaways

NEW YORK, NY - MARY 18: Lindsay Whalen
NEW YORK, NY - MARY 18: Lindsay Whalen /

An early test of strength between two of the WNBA’s contenders lived up to billing Thursday night at The Garden, though the Minnesota Lynx reminded everyone of why they came within a single point of a fourth WNBA championship in six years with a dominant fourth quarter and a 90-71 win over the New York Liberty.

Here’s what we learned:

Tina Charles can be defended, after all

Virtually no one can stop Tina Charles, last season’s leader in points and rebounds per game, but the Lynx managed to keep her without a field goal for the entire first half. A steady diet of Sylvia Fowles defense, with some nasty help schemes to bother her at times, is how Minnesota answers the league’s other elite interior threats (ask Brittney Griner for details). When a team can bring Natasha Howard on help defending, well, even the powers of the Liberty’s most versatile offensive threat can be neutralized at times.

Sugar Rodgers is a legit starter

Left to take on the bulk of New York’s scoring, Sugar Rodgers proved herself up to the challenge, for a half at least. Rodgers sank four threes, scored 19 points, and kept New York within range, trailing just 43-40. Notably, Rodgers continued to build on her ability to create her own shot, something she’s steadily improved under the coaching of Teresa Weatherspoon. It’s no accident she is starting this year, even with Epiphanny Prince back in action. Of course, Cheryl Reeve’s masterful adjustments held her to one second-half point.

The Lynx stars play like stars

The Liberty fought to within 74-67 midway through the fourth. Cheryl Reeve called timeout, and the out-of-timeout call sent the ball into Maya Moore’s hands for a three. Next time down, Sylvia Fowles scored around the rim and was fouled. Then Seimone Augustus, third-best in the league in points per possession on isolation plays last year, per Synergy, got her number called and finished from 15 feet out. Then Rebekkah Brunson, known for her rebounding, nailed a three. Game over, and they didn’t even need to utilize Lindsay Whalen’s penetration. All five starters finished in double figures, and figuring out how to choose which way to let Minnesota beat you is still the saddest game in the league.