Short-handed but looking to build on a gritty victory, the New York Liberty look to take a step closer to .500 on Saturday night when they attempt to beat the Minnesota Lynx for the second time in 10 days.
New York (3-6) has stabilized itself after an 0-4 start, but the inconsistency on a game-to-game basis remains. The Liberty have alternated wins and losses in their last four games after a 91-83 home defeat to Chicago on Wednesday night.
Asia Durr scored 19 points and Tina Charles added 16 for the Liberty, whose four fourth-quarter turnovers killed any chance of establishing an offensive rhythm to overtake the Sky. Amanda Zahui B. contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds in her final game before joining Sweden for the EuroBasket tournament in Serbia.
Charles hit a pair of 3-pointers but was also 7 for 21 overall as she – like the Liberty – is searching for consistency on the offensive end. Charles has shot just 29.2 percent (19 for 65) over her last four games while averaging 10.8 points, well off her season mark of 17.7 per contest.
“I mean, we want all of these guys to shoot it better,” Liberty coach Katie Smith told High Post Hoops.com. “It would help us out in the long run. I just want (Charles) to be aggressive and take aggressive shots and not hesitate. And again playing inside out, getting on the block, taking moves, obviously, there’s a lot of pressure in there.
“Us finding her when she’s got easier opportunities without the defense set. So there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it, but I also just want her to make that she’s continuing to be aggressive every single night.”
Zahui B. will be the second Liberty player at the EuroBasket tournament, with Bria Hartley already there representing France. New York could be forced to use an emergency hardship salary cap extension since it currently has fewer than the league-minimum 11 players on the active roster.
Minnesota (4-5) is looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss that has dropped it below .500. The Lynx have lost all four games during their skid by six or fewer points after an 80-75 defeat to Las Vegas on Sunday. Damiris Dantas scored a season-high 22 points, but the Lynx were outscored 16-3 in the final 4:47 while blowing an eight-point lead.
“You have to understand the desperation. That was part of the teaching this week, different things that we’re facing,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told the team’s official website Friday. “Some of it is just listening out of a timeout, executing what you’re supposed to do in a play. Does it take time? I hope not. I hope it’s something we can recognize and immediately do.”
Dantas has run hot and cold, scoring a combined 21 points in her previous four games before hitting five 3-pointers while shooting 8 of 15 overall. The fifth-year forward, trying to help pick up the slack for the absence of injured starter Seimone Augustus, is averaging 10.1 points overall but has been held to five or fewer points on four occasions.
New York recorded a 75-69 home win over Minnesota on June 12 as Kia Nurse scored 11 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter and rookie Asia Durr added a season-high 20. Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Lynx nearly overcame a 15-point deficit.
(Danielle Robinson photo courtesy Minnesota Lynx official Twitter account)