Four Positives To Build On
The Liberty got their first win of the season with a total team effort. All ten players that recorded time in the game scored. No one player took more than 14 shots. Cappie Pondexter trusted her teammates by dishing out 6 assists. New York also rebounded together with five different players grabbing 5 or more rebounds. Players not named Pondexter put their stamp on the game with strong shooting performances. Essence Carson went an impressive 8-14 from the field for a team high 18 points. Kara Braxton shot 6-10 from the field in addition to offering the best defensive answer the Liberty had for Liz Cambage’s 6’8” body. While at times overzealous on D to a fault, Braxton had moments of fantastic positioning and pushing to keep Cambage out of the paint. The Liberty also demonstrated a breakthrough in end-of-game situations. At the end of regulation, it was Essence Carson with the confidence to take and make big shots. At the end of regulation, the play was drawn for Essence to cut to the lane with her back to the basket for a turn around jumper. Last season the Liberty would bring the ball out and find Cappie, watching her go one-on-many for a final look at the basket. At the moment, it seems the Liberty have options, taking some of the pressure off of Pondexter.
The Liberty exhibited their developing team personality vs. Tulsa- New York was tough, mentally and physically. Despite giving up a deflating 24 turnovers and allowing Tulsa to go to the free throw line 29 times, the Liberty stayed with it, finding ways to come back and score on the other end. Also, Liberty players stood their ground. They banged inside and it was often members of the Shock, not the Liberty, that found themselves on the floor or complaining about contact to the refs.
Pondexter’s most memorable contribution to the victory will certainly be hitting the go-ahead basket with .5 seconds left in overtime to win the game. However, before that clutch play, Pondexter let the game come to her and showcased a well-rounded game. She made 6 of 14 total shot attempts and looked comfortable facilitating in the offense. Defensively she high-jacked Candice Wiggins’s game and left the Tulsa guard with a 1-8 shooting and 5-point stat line. Pondexter moved her feet to beat Wiggins to the spot and forced tough shots out of Wiggins with her defense. In addition to points and defense, Cappie also affected the game with 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
There is a lot of positive energy around this New Look Liberty Squad with Bill Laimbeer as head coach, new players on the roster and a return to Madison Square Garden promised for next year. It is fitting that the first win of the Bill Laimbeer Era started with a big win in a thrilling overtime in the season’s home opener. The win was gritty- certainly a character win, one the players can look back to for confidence as they continue to mesh and improve. The Prudential Center itself rocked with energy with 7,532 Liberty faithful fans coming out to cheer on the Liberty. And to add to the success of the evening many famous faces were in attendance to check the ladies out including rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z, singer Elle Varner, Liberty legends Kym Hampton and Sue Wicks, former Knicks player Allan Houston, and current Knicks players Iman Shumpert and Rasheed Wallace.