New York 72, Connecticut 63
NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2008 (AP) -- The New York Liberty got off to a fast start, let the Connecticut Sun get close, and then pulled away for a win in the teams' WNBA playoff opener.
Janel McCarville added 13 points for New York, which built a 15-point lead in the first quarter, but allowed the Sun to get within three in the third before sealing it in the fourth.
"Anytime you get off to a start like that, it's great,'' Christon said. "It builds momentum.''
Although the Liberty had an 11-point lead at halftime, Christon said she warned her teammates about their tendencies to struggle in the third quarter. Still, it happened again.
"Normally, it snowballs and we hit a wall,'' she said. "Tonight, we bounced back and we kept fighting and we gained our momentum back.''
"Our play was just not good enough,'' Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "We have to get more people involved and do a better job passing the ball. Someone else besides our two post players have to step up.''
The best-of-three first-round series moves to Connecticut for Game 2 on Saturday. A decisive game would be Monday night in Connecticut, if necessary.
The Liberty, who closed the regular season with three losses in four games, also won the opener of their first-round series last year against Detroit, but then lost two close games on the Shock's home court.
"We are the deepest team in the league as opposed to last year when we had a rotation of seven or eight,'' Christon said. "That's going to be definitely key for us, the five starters as well as the next six on the bench. Everybody can come in and contribute, and we trust each other and we're very confident.''
Jones scored six points in Connecticut's 8-0 run sandwiched around halftime to pull the Sun to 42-37 1:14 into the third quarter. Whitmore had a three-point play with 6:09 left in the third, and Lindsay Whalen hit a free throw 40 seconds later to cut the deficit to 46-43.
"They made their run and we were fortunate enough to withstand it,'' New York coach Pat Coyle said. "As poorly as we started the third quarter, it was still 14-14 (in the quarter). We were able to regroup and play better.''
Christon's 3 gave New York a 65-52 lead with 3:55 left.
Jones and Whalen had consecutive three-point plays to cut the Sun's deficit to seven with 3:10 remaining, but that was as close as they got.
New York had a 35-29 edge on rebounds and shot 44 percent from the field -- including 8-for-19 on 3-pointers. The Sun shot 38 percent and were 4-for-22 on 3s.
"There are corrections we need to make,'' said Whitmore, who played with the Liberty from 1999-2003. "Our coaches know what they are and we know what they are. Other than that, we have to sweep it under the rug and move on to the next game.''
Christon hit three free throws, McCarville made two baskets, and Kraayeveld sank a 3 as New York scored 10 consecutive points to take a 14-4 lead in the first quarter. Christon hit two 3s and Kraayeveld had one in 10-1 run that stretched the Liberty's advantage to 24-9 a little more than 3 minutes later.
"They jumped off to a great start,'' Thibault said. "They made every 3. The first quarter was a disaster. The confidence Christon and Kraayeveld had in the first quarter, shooting in their building, was great.''
The Sun used a 9-2 run to pull to 26-18 on Svetlana Abrosimova's fastbreak layup 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.
Christon's four-point play with 2:43 to go in the half pushed New York's lead back up to 13.
Jones' layup with 34 seconds left cut the Sun's deficit to 42-31 at the break.