NEW YORK, N.Y. – AUGUST 27, 2015 – The New York Liberty and the Minnesota Lynx will face off in one of the premier WNBA regular season matchups of the year as the two first place teams from each conference battle at Madison Square Garden on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on MSG Network and NBATV.
According to STATS, this will mark the latest point in the season that two WNBA conference leaders will be meeting one another for the first time. It is the first of two matchups in nine days, with New York scheduled to make a return trip next Sunday evening.
In addition to the big picture story of two teams that currently rank first in their respective conferences, there are some compelling individual story lines tied into Friday night’s game as well.
Tina Charles and Maya Moore are two of the leading candidates for WNBA MVP thanks to their stellar play all season long. Charles ranks fourth in the league in scoring (17.9 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.7 rpg) while Moore is second in scoring (20.5 ppg) and fifth in steals (1.6 spg). Both are former MVP’s, Charles in 2012 and Moore in 2014, and the pair starred together at the University of Connecticut from 2007-10, winning back-to-back national championships in 2009-10.
The last time New York faced Minnesota, the Liberty won 87-80 at The Garden, with Charles posting a career-high 32 points on 14-of-20 shooting.
On the sidelines, Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer and Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve share a lot of common ground. Reeve was an assistant on Laimbeer’s staff in Detroit from 2006-09, where the Shock won WNBA Championships in 2006 and 2008. She has gone on to win two as the head coach in Minnesota (2011, 2013), and both are former WNBA Coach of the Year award winners (Laimbeer in 2003 and Reeve in 2011).
But for both teams, more important than those personal storylines is the chance to pick up a signature victory as the push for the postseason rolls on. The Liberty leads Indiana by a game and a half in the East, and could clinch its first playoff berth since 2012. The Lynx are just 7-5 over its last 12, and now lead the Phoenix Mercury by only 2.5 games.
Points may be hard to come by with two of the leagues top defenses on the floor. New York continues to pace the WNBA in points allowed (70.3) and defensive field goal percentage (.384), while the Lynx are third in defensive scoring and fourth in field goal percentage.
MVP CANDIDATES, FORMER TEAMMATES FACE OFF
In addition to important team battle, Friday night’s game will feature a pair of league MVP candidates and former college teammates in Tina Charles and Maya Moore. Charles and Moore played three seasons together at the University of Connecticut, posting back-to-back national championship seasons in 2009-10. Both are former league MVP’s, with Charles winning the award in 2012 and Moore in 2013. But Moore also has a Finals MVP on her mantle from the 2013 season. This year, Charles ranks fourth in the league in scoring (17.9 ppg), third in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and 14th in field goal percentage (.466) while Moore is second in the league in scoring (20.5 ppg) ninth in rebounding (6.8 rpg) and fifth in steals (1.6 spg).
CHARLES SCORED CAREER-HIGH 32 IN WIN OVER MINNESOTA
The last time New York met up with Minnesota, Tina Charles posted a career-high 32 points in an 87-80 New York win over the Lynx at Madison Square Garden on July 6, 2014. Charles enjoyed a stellar offensive day, sinking a career-best 14 field goals on an incredibly efficient 14-of-20 (.700) shooting performance to go along with 10 rebounds. She also posted two steals, two assists and a blocked shot in 37 minutes of action.
LAST TIME OUT – INDIANA 80, NEW YORK 79
- Tanisha Wright has had back-to-back games with six assists.
- Liberty won the points in the paint battle 40-14.
- Tamika Catchings led the Fever scoring effort for the first time this season vs. the Liberty with 14 points.
- There were five lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter.
- Swin Cash moved into a tie with Taj McWilliams-Franklin for 7th all time in games played with 440.
- Indiana scored 55 points in the first half, the most for a Liberty opponent in any half this season.
- The Fever only scored 25 points in the second half and shot 36.4 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes (8-of-22)
- Kiah Stokes finished with four blocks, the most for her since swatting a franchise record eight in a win over Connecticut on July 16.
WNBA CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER COACHING MATCHUP
New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer and Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve have combined to win five WNBA titles. Laimbeer won in 2003, 2006 and 2008, with the Detroit Shock, while Reeve won titles in Minnesota in 2011 and 2013. Reeve spent four seasons as an assistant coach on Laimbeer’s staff in Detroit, and was on the bench for the Shock’s 2006 and 2008 league championships. Both have been named WNBA Coach of the Year, Laimbeer in 2003 and Reeve in 2011, both coinciding with their first championship wins as head coaches.
ROOKIE STEPPING UP
Liberty rookie guard Brittany Boyd has been on a tear lately, scoring in double figures in three of the last four games. She is coming off a 14 points, six assist, six rebound performance at Indiana on Sunday night. Over the last four games, she ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 ppg while shooting an impressive 54.8 percent (17-of-31) from the field. Boyd is also averaging 4.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game during that stretch. She ranks fifth amongst rookies averaging 7.0 ppg and first with 1.2 steals per game.
TANISHA WRIGHT DISHING THE ROCK
Tanisha Wright recorded a New York Liberty individual season-high nine assists in its 90-78 win at Connecticut on August 14, and has dished out six assists in back-to-back games heading into Friday night. She is second for New York and ranks 9th in the WNBA this season, averaging 3.6 assists per game and is one of the best all-time at distributing the basketball, ranking 14th in league history with 1,101-career assists.