Carleton and Collier lead Minnesota to Commissioner's Cup title with 94-89 win over New York Liberty


NEW YORK — Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx put the WNBA on notice that they are a championship caliber team.

Bridget Carleton scored 23 points and Collier added 21 to help the Lynx win their first Commissioner’s Cup championship with a 94-89 victory over the New York Liberty on Tuesday night.

“Means a lot. Testament to where we are at this season,” Collier said. “This is the best group. Our personalities mesh so well. Any night anyone can have 20. Bridget had an outstanding game. It’s so fun.”

The Lynx became the fourth different team to win the Cup in the event’s four-year history and continued the trend of the host team losing. New York was trying to be the first to repeat as champions after winning in Las Vegas last season.

“It’s really good, always want to win championships,” Collier said. “This is a championship we won, but there’s still work to be done. A lot of games to be played. We want to build on this. We don’t want to peak here. This is amazing at the end of the day we want to achieve bigger things than this at the end of the season.”

The game was tied at 60 late in the third quarter when Carleton and Cecilia Zandalasini hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 10-0 run that spanned the periods.

Breanna Stewart scored nine straight points to get the Liberty within 70-69, but they could never regain the lead. Courtney Williams and Carleton scored the next five points for Minnesota and New York never really threatened again.

“What I’m proud of is we answered every run on the road and that tells you everything about our basketball team,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said.

Collier, who also had six rebounds and three assists, won the game’s MVP award.

Stewart scored 24 points and Sabrina Ionescu added 23.

“I think that they executed better than us and that’s it, both ends of the floor,” Stewart said. “We weren’t able to get anything we wanted. Twenty-one turnovers is never going to win the game.”

Jonquel Jones, who has been fantastic for the Liberty all season, struggled on Tuesday night. She missed all three of her field-goal attempts and didn’t score until hitting two free throws with 1:20 left.

“JJ has been playing great, they really took her out of the game, made it hard for her to catch the ball,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said.

The game was moved from the Liberty’s usual home Barclays Center to UBS Arena — about 20 miles away — because the NBA draft was being held there Wednesday night and there wasn’t enough time to changeover the arena after the game.

Even though it wasn’t their normal home, the Liberty faithful showed up and were loud, trying to spur on their team to victory.

New York built a 47-37 lead midway through the second quarter before the Lynx scored eight straight points to get within two. The Liberty led 50-47 at the break as Ionescu had 18 points and Kayla Thornton 14.

The Liberty welcomed back Courtney Vandersloot, who hadn’t played since June 4 to be with her mom who passed away two weekends ago. She checked in for the first time with 3:30 left in the opening quarter and finished with four points.

“Shows a lot about who she is and how much she cares about being a part of this team,” Ionescu said. “Wanting to sacrifice to suit up and be available to us. Credit to her, it’s so tough to do what she’s doing.”

New York also saw the return of Betnijah-Laney Hamilton, who had been sidelined with right knee soreness for the past week. She was back in the starting lineup, finishing with 13 points.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVE

The teams for the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup will split a prize pool of $500,000. Players on Minnesota can make up to $30,000 while each player on New York makes $10,000. Every player competing will also receive $5,000 in crypto currency.

There was also a charitable component with New York raising $15,000 for Women Creating Change and Minnesota earning $13,500 for Gender Justice. The Lynx earned an additional $10,000 for their charity by winning and the Liberty received $5,000 for finishing second.

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball



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