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Liberty own the boards and get big road win against Lynx

New York Liberty v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The last night of a road trip can be tricky. You’ve been running around all over the place and the thought of getting back into your bed at home is alluring. You may let up a bit and not be as focused as you usually are once you start thinking about home. However, there’s still one more job to do. When you push past the fatigue and lock in, you wind up proving something to yourself along the way.

On Friday night, the New York Liberty wrapped up a three-game road trip. Their journey took them to Los Angeles and here to Minnesota to face a rapidly improving Lynx squad. The Liberty were looking to get some revenge after the Lynx beat them at the ‘clays last Friday. New York was able to get their lick back and close out the road trip in style with a gritty 76-66 victory.

I have a something of a running bit these days. Long story short, when the Liberty win the rebounding battle, they win the game. Including tonight, the Libs have won ten straight games when they’ve won on the boards. They dominated the Lynx on the interior thanks in large part to Jonquel Jones. JJ played BIG and her 15 points, 17 rebounds, and two blocks led the way.

In postgame, Sandy Brondello revealed that JJ wasn’t feeling well today, but was still able to dominate the game. When Jones is able to impact the game on both sides of the ball, the Liberty go from really good to downright dominant.

The team defense also made things hard on Lynx star, Napheesa Collier. Phee made her return after being out with an ankle injury for the past week and change. On the night, she scored 18 points, but went 8-18 from the field with only two free throw attempts. The Liberty threw a bunch of looks at the All Star and made her work really hard for every shot

The Liberty also held Collier scoreless (and without a field goal attempt) in the fourth quarter, which Sabrina Ionescu discussed in postgame

The Liberty have talked about finding ways to win on nights their shots aren’t falling. Tonight, they shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three point range. However, they held the Lynx to 41.6 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from downtown. Great teams beat you in a variety of ways and always find ways to pull through in the end.

A special milestone

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Kayla Thornton made some history on Friday as she grabbed the 1000th rebound in her WNBA career. KT reached the 1k marker in style in the second quarter

Thornton’s journey to this point has been a long one and it’s been marked by toughness and perseverance. KT spoke about that accomplishment in postgame and said:

KT has been one of the best bench players in the league this season, and she has been someone the coaching staff trusts to close out games and take on the challenge of defending elite players such as Washington’s Elena Delle Donne. Thornton’s ability to do everything allows Sandy Brondello to try out as many combinations as possible and have them all work. With the games getting tougher going forward, that versatility will serve the team well.

Thornton and the Liberty combined to slow down the electric Lynx rookie, Diamond Miller. Last week, Miller took it to them and hit the game deciding three pointer in the final minutes of the game. Tonight, Miller only went 2-of-12 from the field as Thornton, Betnijah Laney, and Jocelyn Willoughby combined to make things tough on her. The Liberty’s defense is getting better by the day and has the potential to be special.

On the move

New York Liberty v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

On a night the Liberty’s threes weren’t falling, Sabrina Ionescu proved to be the exception. Sab buried six threes in route to a team high 18 points along with six assists, five rebounds, and three steals. When you’re as great of a three point shooter as she is, defenses have to throw traps and all sorts of schemes at you to get you off the ball. But when you’re as great of a passer as Ionescu is, that’s just an invitation to put a highlight on the board

I asked Ionescu about that play and she said:

“They went into a trap towards the end, and so we’ve seen that before. So just making sure that I continue to keep my dribble and come off that screen aggressively and find the open man. And JJ started moving really well without the ball and being able to find gaps to get into. And when she’s dominant like that on the inside, we just have so many weapons and it’s really exciting to see.”

Ionescu also made a nifty bit of history on the evening as well:

As it turned out, she hit the shot that put the Liberty ahead for good in the final seconds of the third quarter:

Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr asked her about her success from downtown on the night, and after noting the lack of free throws the team got (eight), said that she has to stay aggressive and trust the mentality of the work that she’s put in. Sab also added:

“Our posts were able to set really good screens and I was able to come off and have clean, good looks at the basket that I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of times before. And so, just continuing to trust in my shot and knowing that if I’m able to shoot that consistently, it’s going to open up the floor for everybody else,” said Ionescu.

“And so, I was able to come off and either shoot it or look for the open person, whether it was a popper or someone rolling. And so, just continuing to move in the offense whether the ball is going in or not. Continuing to just be a threat off the pick and roll is something that my team needs for me and I’ll do every single night.”

It’s a total team effort and when everyone is on the same page, beautiful things happen.

Next up

Minnesota Lynx v Las Vegas Aces Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It’s time. Tip off against the champs at 3:00 p.m. ET Sunday at a sold out Barclays. See you there!