Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mercury 104, Liberty 97: Tempo-Free Analysis

Diana Taurasi, moments before tying game at free throw line in waning second of regulation. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

New York City - Riding the momentum of a six-game win streak, the New York Liberty hosted the Phoenix Mercury. Included in the streak were three road triumphs for New York, posting their their longest win streak since 2010. Phoenix ventured to Madison Square Garden below .500. Little of those details mattered, as the Mercury prevailed, 104-97, in overtime.

First quarter: Diana Taurasi opens with a three. The first Liberty set ball goes into the low post. Tina Charles, defended one-on-one by Brittney Griner, misses a fall-away jumper. The Liberty still go inside, while the Mercury can four threes in just over two minutes. The Mercury win the first four minutes, 18-7, largely due to their perimeter prowess. Those treys are falling, but in time, could prove to be fool’s gold for the Mercury. Off the bench, Kiah Stokes is playing some solid defense on Griner. Offensively, the Liberty moved Charles, still a threat from 12-15 feet, to the high post, opening some lanes for penetration.  
Score: Phoenix 28, NY Liberty 20

Second quarter: In just two minutes, the Liberty begin with an 8-0 spurt to tie the contest. New York got a lot out of its double post set with Stokes and 6-5 Amanda Zahul B, giving Charles the chance to get about a five-minute rest. The Mercury have cooled off from the perimeter, and the Liberty has stepped up the offense. Regardless, Phoenix still hangs tough and with their motion and constant screening, proves to be a team demanding constant defensive attention.
Halftime: Phoenix 47, NY Liberty 46
Possessions: Phoenix 41, NY Liberty 43
Offensive Efficiency: Phoenix 115, NY Liberty 107
  • The efficiency allowed by New York was considerably higher than coach Bill Laimbeer’s liking. A consolation was limiting the Mercury to zero offensive rebounds.
Third quarter: Phoenix looks inside to Griner. Carolyn Swords defends with a double-team coming on a catch. The Liberty get a good start, winning the first four minutes 6-4. Perspective. Not a highlight film reel resulting in a 52-51 lead at the six-minute mark, but decidedly better than the four minutes to open the game. The Liberty spurt late in the quarter to open a six-point lead. When Brittany Boyd enters the lineup, she energizes the attack on both ends of the floor.  On one sequence, Boyd seemed to overdribble before feeding Zahui B. with a pinpoint pass, stretching the lead to eight.
Score: NY Liberty 67, Phoenix 57

Fourth quarter: General observations so far: Griner is very ordinary today. Boyd, as noted, is a spark, while Charles and Sugar Rodgers are reliable as usual. I just get done writing this and Taurasi buries another three. You cannot give her any daylight on the perimeter. With six minutes left, the Liberty hold a 75-72 lead. Griner is starting to assert herself at this most opportune juncture. Rodgers comes up with another big three. It is 82-76 Liberty heading into the final three minutes. Up five with two minutes to go, the Liberty are in an attack-the-basket mode. Taurasi cuts the Liberty lead to one with just over a minute left. Shavonte Zellous answers with a floater over Griner. The Phoenix interior threat answers before Charles’ penetration gets the lead back to three with 20 seconds to go. Taurasi is fouled from three with seven seconds to go, and cans all three to force overtime.  
End of regulation: NY Liberty 89, Phoenix 89

Overtime: Both teams come out at a good up-and-down pace. Taurasi is now a target. After getting a screen, she hits a wing (usually Candace Dupree) cutting backdoor. Very effective. Stokes fouls out with 1:50 to go. Swords is in, but the story here is a few poorly used possessions on the part of the Liberty. The Mercury scored six of the first eight points here in overtime, and the Liberty seemed to rush things rather than rely on their regular offensive sets. Phoenix hits their free throws to close out the victory.
Final score: Phoenix 104, NY Liberty 97
Possessions: Phoenix  90, NY Liberty 81
Offensive efficiency: Phoenix 116, NY Liberty 97

FOUR FACTORS:
eFG%: Phoenix 55, NY Liberty 49
Free Throw Rate: Phoenix 47, NY Liberty 17
Offensive Rebound%: Phoenix 13, NY Liberty 32
Turnover Rate: Phoenix 9, NY Liberty 12

What Phoenix did well: Hit the big shots and free throws, mostly courtesy of Diana Taurasi, in the stretch while getting the vital stops to force the extra session.

What New York did well: Limit the Mercury on the offensive boards for a raw number total of four, and regrouping after an early double-digit deficit.

Notes: Phoenix is 6-9 while the Liberty, off on a road trip, are 10-5. The Mercury placed five in double digits. Taurasi added 24 points and the game’s third highest EF at 30. The Liberty led 54-38 in points in the paint. Both teams knocked down seven three-pointers. The big difference was the charity stripe. Phoenix was 27-of-33, while the Liberty were 12-of-15 for 80%. Penny Taylor of Phoenix had a solid effort with 16 points, seven assists and no turnovers. Dupree, a quietly effective contributor on this afternoon, Charles and Stokes shared rebounding honors with eight each.

Leading scorers and EF:
Phoenix: Candace Dupree 26 points, EF 36
New York: Tina Charles 26 points, EF 37.

Final Thoughts:
“Frustrating. Seemed the whole fourth quarter, they scored from the free throw line. Frustrating because they kept going to the line. Some were fouls some you could disagree with. They came out and shot the ball well. Taurasi is a multiple Olympian. She’s tall and smart, and shoots the ball well.” - NY Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer

“I went up and knocked down those three shots. There was absolutely no nervousness. At this point of my career, nervousness is long gone. Obviously a great win for us, but anytime you win on the road in this league, it is special.” - Diana Taurasi

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