Bria Hartley sets up offensive attack during Liberty's win over Connecticut Wednesday morning. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEW YORK -- Shooting cures a multiple of ailments.
When the stroke is clean and the ball finds the bottom of the net, good things happen. Screens are set with more precision. The offense flows, and as a bonus, there is a bounce in the step on the defensive end.
The New York Liberty saw that happen as they dismantled Washington on Sunday. Wednesday morning, there was a carryover. The Liberty ran and hid from the first-place Connecticut Sun, a team that defeated them on the same Madison Square Garden floor a few weeks earlier. The 96-80 triumph put the Liberty at 10-9, while the Sun fell to 12-9. Of greater significance, it was a second straight victory and scintillating offensive performance for New York.
“This is a structure that is good for us,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said following the game. “We are pushing the pace, getting easy baskets; and as a team, we are enjoying this. We just want to keep it going.”
The Liberty shot an effective field goal percentage of 55, including 9-of-21 on three-pointers. Tina Charles led the way with 28 points and 17 rebounds, both game highs. Shavonte Zellous added 16 points and Bria Hartley 10 markers. Epiphanny Prince tallied nine points while Sugar Rodgers and Kiah Stokes added eight apiece in relief, just the offensive recipe Laimbeer had been searching for. Charles is New York's marquee player, and from day one, the Liberty mentor impressed on getting her consistent help. Today, it was present.
All the offensive talk these past few days has not come in the way of job one, which is defense. At halftime, the Liberty held a four-point lead.
“We challenged them to come out and respond,” Laimbeer said. “They did in a big way.”
New York outscored the Sun by 16 in the third quarter, virtually sealing the verdict. Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 14 points. Alyssa Thomas, effective in Connecticut’s win here in late June, was held to a quiet 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
“We missed 44 shots,” Sun coach Kurt Miller said. “In the WNBA, you will have games like this. I think the big difference was offensive rebounding. They did a job on us in that area.”
Connecticut is a good rebounding club. On this day, the Liberty owned a 44-16 percent edge in offensive rebounding rate, translating into a 24-13 edge in second chance points.
“We know Connecticut rebounds, so it was a priority for us to limit them, especially on the offensive boards,” Charles said. “Each game, we have goals, that was our main one today. Everyone did a great job hitting the boards and getting to those loose balls.”
Charles feels these last two games have altered the Liberty mindset.
“Everyone is playing their game,” she said. “As a team, we are playing to our strengths.”
The all-star break is now upon the Liberty, with the first game off the break being a Tuesday night date at Minnesota.
“The break is a good time step away to get mentally refreshed for a few days and remember our good habits for when we come back," Charles said. “And we come back facing a big challenge. I know we all look forward to it.”
Good shooting, and rebounding, can do that.