The Liberty tipped off the season Saturday with a win over San Antonio. And then coach Bill Laimbeer went off on his players, both publicly and privately, unsatisfied with the effort and execution.
The message needed to be received in a hurry. Game 2 against Minnesota was going to be a much tougher test. The Lynx fell one point short in the WNBA finals last year against Los Angeles.
The Liberty didn’t pass the test. Maya Moore scored eight points in the fourth quarter and paced five starters in double figures with 16 overall, and Minnesota emerged with a 90-71 victory Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Not exactly what Laimbeer wanted for his 60th birthday Friday.
“They might be the best team in the world for women’s basketball,” Laimbeer said. “We were right there at three points [down] at the half and let it get away. It means we have to play harder and we have to play better and then see where we’re at.”
Sugar Rodgers led the Liberty with 20 points, but 19 came in the first half. Brittany Boyd had 16 before leaving because of an Achilles injury with 5:14 left. The third-year guard will undergo an MRI today. Tina Charles had only six points and seven rebounds, but she had been feeling sick in recent days.
“I do think the intensity was better,” Charles said. “It was more so the execution.”
Minnesota (1-1) took an 11-point lead early in the second quarter, but the Liberty rallied and went ahead 45-43 on Boyd’s three-point play early in the third.
The Lynx’s response? A 17-2 run keyed by Lindsay Whalen’s two jumpers, one drive and two free throws. Minnesota led 70-56 after three quarters.
Boyd kept pushing, scoring eight in the first 2:31 of the final quarter. Then Rebecca Allen nailed a three to cut the deficit to 74-67 with 6:13 left.
The Lynx’s response? Moore countered with a three to trigger a 16-4 run to close the game.
“That team has been together for a long time,” Rodgers said. “ . . . But we’re still trying to find us.”
The Liberty jumped out to an 8-0 lead. The Lynx then went on a 30-11 run. The Liberty cut it to 43-40 at halftime. But Minnesota was just better.
“We have to become a more disciplined basketball team,” Laimbeer said. “Too many mistakes.”