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Quentin Batalillon

General News 2024

Lynx stormed past Liberty to win its first Commissioner’s Cup title

ELMONT, NY – The Minnesota Lynx are ready for a dialogue change in the WNBA.

“You have to talk about us now, you don’t have a choice,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after her team defeated New York Liberty 94-89 to win the Commissioner’s Cup Trophy. “We don’t really care what you think, except now, when we tell you, ‘You have to talk about us.’

“We just beat a super team. Do you know how hard that is? Because you guys love your super teams. That’s all you want to talk about. But we just beat a super team. Let’s talk about it.”

Last season, the WNBA story was dominated by discussions about the so-called superteams Las Vegas and New York. They met for the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup, won by the Liberty, and then in the WNBA Finals, won by the Aces.

The Lynx – whose dynasty years ran from 2011 to 2017, when they won four titles and went to two other Finals – are ready to re-enter the WNBA championship conversation. The way they played on Tuesday proved that, as did their 13-3 start this season.

The Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season competition that started in 2021, has grown in stature among the players, competing for a $500,000 prize pool. The Cup format has changed this year, with each team playing five regular season matches instead of the previous 10, to determine their place in the Cup standings. Another change was that all Cup matches will be played in a two-week period, with the final all in June.

“I like the format this year. I like that it’s so compact,” said Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, the game’s MVP with 21 points and 6 rebounds. “It’s easier to follow for the fans, and for us (players).

“And it means a lot. We are competitors and you want to win every match you play in. The money also makes it a lot of fun. It’s a great team that we just beat, it’s a match that we won and we got it also won a few.” money. So it’s like a trifecta.”

That was an appropriate term, as the competition took place at the UBS Arena next to horse racing’s Belmont Park. The Liberty’s better finish in the Cup game gave them hosting rights, but their home, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, was unavailable Tuesday as it was prepared for Wednesday’s NBA draft.

Still, the Liberty crowd came out loud, especially cheering on Courtney Vandersloot, who returned after missing eight games due to her mother’s death from cancer, and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, back after missing three games due to a knee injury. They helped the Liberty to a halftime score of 50-47.

But Minnesota took over in the third quarter, outscoring New York 19-10, and then held off the Liberty in the final quarter.

Collier is the star for the Lynx, but they also got big games from Bridget Carleton (23 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) and Cecilia Zandalasini (15 points off the bench). The two combined to shoot 13 of 16 from the field.

Breanna Stewart (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Sabrina Ionescu (23 points, 10 rebounds) led New York. Like Collier, they are part of the U.S. 5-on-5 Olympic team, coached by Reeve. The Liberty’s spending on Tuesday was mainly their 21 turnover.

That and the resilience of the Lynx. Reeve isn’t shy about saying her team, which rose to No. 1 in the ESPN Power Rankings on Monday, has been underrated. And even though Tuesday’s game won’t count in the regular season standings, the message the Lynx sent was clear.

“We have a lot of offensive threats, but we are so solid defensively,” Collier said. “That’s why it’s so difficult to play against us. Our aggressiveness, our willingness to sell out everything (because) we support each other.

“This is the most talented and fun team I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here. We want to build on this, we don’t want to peak here. We want to achieve bigger things than this season at the end of the year.”