Sunday, June 5, 2016

Liberty 91, Fever 59: Tempo-Free Analysis

Indiana head coach Stephanie White fields questions after 32-point loss to Liberty. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

BY RAY FLORIANI (@rfloriani)

New York City - Coming into Friday’s contest, the feeling permeated that this one was a game the Liberty needed.

Sure, the season is relatively young, as roughly 80 percent of the slate remains. Still, New York dropped three straight at home and after this meeting with Indiana, were off on a three-game road trip. The fact that this was Indiana, a team that denied the New York a shot at the WNBA Finals last fall by closing out the series right on the Liberty’s home court, added to the drama.

Doubts, concerns and drama aside, the Liberty scored a resounding 91-59 victory at Madison Square Garden, their largest margin of victory since August 2010. The win puts the Liberty at .500, (3-3) while Indiana is now 3-4.

The problem with New York hasn’t been defense. That part of the game has been an emphasis and staple under Bill Laimbeer’s watch. To date, the unsettling aspect of New York’s game is offense. Entering the Indiana game, the figures definitely bear this out.

Liberty offensive efficiency: 88.5
Liberty defensive efficiency: 88.4

As noted many times in the past, a defensive efficiency short of 90 will get you many wins. An offensive efficiency in the same area is far from conducive to winning.

The Liberty led 42-29 at the half. The numbers showed the defense still remaining stingy while the offense clicked into high gear.

Indiana offensive efficiency:  81
New York offensive efficiency: 105

The final quarter was outstanding for the home side. The defense excelled while the offense put up phenomenal numbers.

Fourth quarter:
Score: Indiana 13, New York 21
Possessions: Indiana 20, New York 19
Offensive efficiency: Indiana 65, New York 163

An interesting note from the fourth quarter shot chart of yours truly: The Liberty scored 11 field goals, with six dialed in from long distance. Three different players hit a trifecta that last quarter: Sugar Rodgers (2), Shoni Schimmel (2) and Shavonte Zellous(1). Having several consistent perimeter threats is what Laimbeer is looking for. The key word is ‘consistent.’
Schimmel, who; as noted, knocked down two threes in the last quarter, could help the New York perimeter game. “I am coming along with my game conditioning,” Schimmel, a former Louisville star, said following the victory. “Hitting my first shot, I felt great. I feel confident about getting more minutes and helping the team out.”

The final numbers of note:
Possessions: Indiana 73, New York 77
Offensive efficiency: Indiana 81, New York 118

eFG%: Indiana 35, New York 59
Free Throw Rate: Indiana 31, New York 30
Offensive Rebound%: Indiana 24, New York 37
Turnover Rate: Indiana 16, New York 16

What Indiana did well: Keep the turnover rate under 20%. Really, there wasn’t much else you could say in the realm of positives. Coach Stephanie White would wholeheartedly agree.

What New York did well: Shoot the ball and defend. It was a performance you would like to bottle, shooting nearly 60 percent eFG and 10-of-17 (58.8%) from beyond the arc. The defense, as usual, was solid, but this was the offensive burst coach Bill Laimbeer was looking for, a point production display he would love to see on the upcoming road trip.

Leading scorers and EF:
Indiana: Tiffany Mitchell (11 points, EF 12)
New York: Sugar Rodgers (21 points, EF 26)

NOTES: New York dominated with a 40-18 edge in points in the paint, to little surprise as Indiana could not establish a post-up game. All too often in the second half, a Fever possession consisted of a perimeter attempt (usually a miss) ending in a Liberty rebound. The Liberty had only eight fast break points, while Indiana had zero.

The EF leader was actually Tina Charles of the Liberty. Charles scored 14 points, while adding nine rebounds and six assists against just two turnovers for an EF of 27. On the Fever side, Tamika Catchings and Shenise Johnson tied for EF honors with 16.

Final thoughts:
“We made shots, rebounded, defended. The frustration of last week came out tonight. I think we are in a good spot. Like to have Zellous come off the bench brings energy. Like Tanisha (Wright) at the lead guard. We don’t have a bunch of shooters and drivers, looking to open the floor a bit that’s what we are working on in practice. The defense was good, but the energy and effort were outstanding. We bring that effort, we will be alright. Indiana plays an organized helter skelter defense. They leave weakside defenders open. We found them and hit them. Other times, the Indiana defense can force you to turn the ball over. We are working with Brittany Boyd in practice. We like her spark and speed on the floor. Spoon (Theresa Weatherspoon) has been working with her in practice. She needs to get her teammates involved, and tonight, she did. Tanisha did a nice job of setting the tone for us, she got us stable. We won by a lot, but more important, we have players working hard in practice and tonight they got a chance to show what they could do.” - Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer

“They outshot us, outrebounded us, outhustled us and out-efforted us. Not much else to say. They played like their backs were against the wall. They are tough to play inside, but tonight, we lost them on some defensive coverages and they hit those open shots from outside. Hey, credit them for hitting those shots. They also did a nice job answering any run we might have had. We needed to get some scoring, but they simply won by out-toughing and out-physicaling us. - Indiana coach Stephanie White

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