The New York Liberty showed great promise, poise, and toughness on Saturday amidst a 92-83 loss against a Minnesota Lynx team that lost a lot of talent in the offseason yet still are chugging along.
The game opened up extremely competitively, with both teams trading blows alternatively. At the end of the first half, the Liberty were up by one, giving hope for the team’s fourth victory of the season. Kia Nurse and Tina Charles combined for 24 points at the half, doing everything they could to will the Liberty to victory.
Things changed when the second half started, especially with Minnesota top end players Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier, and Odyssey Sims, who scored 25 out of the Lynx’s 28 total points in the third quarter. This ballooned the lead to 17 and essentially took the Liberty out of the game.
While the Liberty had a couple of good runs in the fourth quarter, the deficit was ultimately too much to overcome.
As always, what are three things that can be taken away from this game?
Kia Nurse’s development
Much has been expected of starting guard Kia Nurse. After spending much of her rookie adjusting to the WNBA, the Liberty were expecting her to take that next step and consistently show the skills that made Nurse the 10th pick in the 2018 Draft.
So far this season, she has met those expectations. Nurse is averaging 15.2 points per game, and is shooting 35.7% from three.
Those skills were evident tonight, as Nurse led the Liberty with 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting, hitting 5 of her whopping 11 three point attempts. Once the Liberty make some improvements on the offensive end, expect Nurse to take another jump.
Can the Liberty please get Tina Charles some help?
I know the Liberty are rebuilding, but it has become all too clear that forward/center Tina Charles needs some help. Although Charles has still been one of the most dominant players in the WNBA, she has also been one of the more inefficient ones. That may not be completely her fault though.
Charles is shooting the ball horrendously, especially when you look at her skills and previous numbers. Her overall field goal percentage has dropped by around 6% to 37.1. After seeming to develop a respectable three point shot over the past few seasons, Charles is going through a massive slump, shooting 15.8% over the nine games of the season.
A big reason for this is the Liberty’s offense. Not only are there not enough consistent threats surrounding Charles, but very few players on the team has been able to shoot the ball decently. This has put even more defensive focus on Charles. No matter how good you are, it is tough to be efficient when teams are throwing multiple bodies at you per possession.
Even though it is technically a rebuilding year, the Liberty need to make some changes to its offensive, not only for Charles, but for the future success of the team.
Injuries continue to affect Liberty
With so many players either out with injury or playing EuroBasket, it seemed in the cards that coach Katie Smith would have to balance out the minutes for players who have been playing basketball almost year round.
With that being said and having only nine players active tonight, coach Smith essentially only used seven players in the rotation, with Han Xu and Tiffany Bias receiving less than five minutes combined.
While Xu and Bias would not likely contribute meaningfully, it is especially worth considering at least giving them some run to give rest to the likes of Nurse, who did not come out the entire game.
Fatigue was definitely a factor in the Lynx’s third quarter run, and events like these could be more avoidable if the Liberty are fresh.