The New York Liberty climbed out of any early hole against the Phoenix Mercury, but the Mercury pulled away in the second half as the Liberty fell 83-69 at home.
Phoenix got off to a blazing start, scoring 30 points in the first quarter, the second-highest scoring quarter by a Liberty opponent this season. They shot 64.7 percent from the field, nailing seven of their nine threepoint attempts.
Diana Taurasi led the charge for Phoenix in the first half, hitting all six of her attempts from the field, including five from deep.
With a layup in the first quarter, Tina Charles scored the 5,014th point of her prestigious career, surpassing Taj McWilliams-Franklin to move into 18th on the WNBA all-time scoring list.
The Mercury lead ballooned to 18 mid-way through the second quarter, but the Liberty responded with a 17-4 run to cut the deficit to five.
Marissa Coleman missed the contest due to a sprained ankle. She has started 11 games for the Liberty this season.
Bria Hartley finished with 11 points, to go along with five rebounds and three assists. The point guard is averaging 14.5 points a game against Phoenix this season.
After failing to find the bottom of the basket against the Sparks, Shavonte Zellous bounced back with 11 points. The team is now 3-2 when the guard scores in double figures.
Amanda Zahui B scored in double figures for the third straight game, notching 10 points off the bench.
Taurasi’s seven threes were the most by a Liberty opponent this season, as were Brittney Griner’s six blocks.
Similar to the last contest against Phoenix, New York once again won the battle on the offensive glass with an 8-3 advantage, but the Mercury made up for the disparity at the free throw line, where they had 10 more attempts.
One of the better free throw shooting teams in the league to begin the season, the Liberty have struggled from the line of late, hitting just 10 of 22 attempts over the last two games.
The game marked the third time this season the Liberty have failed to reach 70 points.
Head coach Sandy Brondello on tonight’s win… “Very Happy! We just came off of 2 big losses on the road that we were really disappointed about. So, I’m Happy about tonight’s win because we played great basketball. Every game we cannot underestimate any one and we just have to put in more effort and play more like a unit.”
Brondello on Phoenix Taurasi shooting performance tonight… “Very impressive. Taurasi is the best shooter of all time. She didn’t miss one until late in the second half. She amazes me with her performance every day. She’s 36 years young and this is the best I’ve seen her in her game. She controls the game and she’s pretty amazing!”
What about your team’s defense on Tina Charles… “Our defense was great. Tina [Charles] protects the paint so we had to make her feel uncomfortable. You have to make great players feel uncomfortable and that’s exactly what we did.”
Diana Taurasi on individual three-point shooting performance… “I was just trying to be aggressive. The last couple of games I came out a little passive. Tonight, when I was open I looked to make a play, the three-point line was open. I was hoping they went down today; and that’s pretty much what happened.”
Taurasi on team defense on Tina Charles… “Obviously when you play against Tina [Charles] you have to give her a lot of attention and focus. She’s just a great player. If you try to guard her one-on-one it’s going to be a long night. Today we made a consistent effort every time she touched the ball to bring bodies and a lot of hands; that’s what you have to do against her. She’s a great player. Even with that she had a great game.”
Taurasi on team’s character to bounce back after losing streak… “I always say in this league; you can’t get to low, can’t get too high. We’ve lost a couple, won a couple. I just think if we stay even key we will get to the things we need to do, and we will be fine.”
DeWanna Bonner on individual and team three-point shooting performance… “They helped in on BG [Brittney Griner] a lot, so we had a lot of open shots. I wanted to make sure my feet were set, focus in, and you know just knock them down. I think with us hitting outside shots like that it’s pretty hard for teams to stop us.”
Bonner on four players scoring in double figures for Phoenix… “We’re a veteran team. I think on any given night we can count on somebody to step up and score. To have four players in double figures, that says a lot about our team. It also says a lot about our point guards; getting players the ball in the right spot. So, I give credit to them for getting us the shots and us knocking them down.”
New York Coach:
Head Coach Katie Smith’s opening statement… “We spotted them a good amount in the first quarter. The third quarter we could not get any buckets. We had 11 points in the quarter. Scoring points right now is hard for us and we need to find a way to put points on the board.”
Smith on overcoming slow start… “I thought we picked it up and got locked in. It was tough on the offensive end but I thought our defense definitely got more engaged. We were helping each other out, getting rebounds and crashing the boards that got us some offensive rebounds. I thought some of those effort plays were there and we have to build on that. I know it doesn’t feel good especially for them [the team] but those things will build and give us an opportunity to have success down the road.”
Smith on how scoring droughts put pressure on defense… “Totally it puts a lot of pressure on our defense. The first quarter definitely could have been a different ball game. We are very aware of what DT [Diana Taurasi] can do. Our bigs were a little too low and guards needed to get through screens a little bit better.”
Smith on Tina Charles slow night offensively… “She needs to touch the ball a little more and be a facilitator. At times, we feel the need to allow her to touch the basketball to suck the defense in. I will take her attacking the basket, going in there and getting fouled. We still have to play through her a good bit while still be aggressive at every other position.”
Smith on the performance from Shavonte Zellous tonight…. “I thought she was aggressive tonight and we need her to stay aggressive both as a scorer and as a playmaker. She is one of our better drivers, a big guard who can see the court. She needs to stay on the attack mode and can do a little bit of everything. We need that from her every single night.
Smith on matching up with Phoenix three-point shooting… “It’s tough, they have shooters all over the floor. They space the floor and tonight everyone was hitting shots. Diana [Taurasi] shouldn’t hit that many [three-pointers] obviously knowing who she is coming into the ballgame. We needed to run her off the line and take tough contested two pointers. They have a lot of people and are playing their shooters, Leilani Mitchell and DeWanna Bonner. Folks who can knock it down and that puts a lot of pressure on you.”
New York Players:Tina Charles on moving to 18th on WNBA all-time scoring record… “I’m thankful to be in the league. When I was younger, I didn’t think I would have this much of an impact, so I am very thankful for my coaches, my teammates, the organizations I’ve played with and that they trust me with my offensive abilities. That’s the most I can say about it. I’m thankful for the organization’s I’ve played with; the Connecticut Sun and the New York Liberty.”
Tina Charles on the difference between this season and last year… “It’s really just taking ownership in who we are. Ownership on what your abilities are on the offensive end and ownership of what you bring on the defensive end, and who we are as a team. From the time I’ve been here, and the time watching New York Liberty, when I was in Connecticut, their staple had always been defense. Defense always carried over to the offensive end. With this game, you can get deflated seeing three, after three, it’s hard to come back with twos. It is really hard, I don’t know how many threes we made this game, but it is really hard. We were playing that Liberty basketball. There were spurts where we had our runs, but then they got away with it. As long as we can take ownership of what we can do individually on the offensive end, and the defensive end, the team gets better when individuals do better. We just have to keep having confidence in ourselves to move forward.”
Tina Charles on the resilience of the team… “I would say that is all Shavonte Zellous, I’ve been saying for a long time, she is the heart of this team. That is exactly who she is, and it’s contagious. Everyone else wants to do the same thing. Everybody wants to play that hard defense she’s been playing on Diana [Taurasi]. Diana is a great player, she’s going to make tough shots. But when you see a player picking her up in the back court, when you see Brittany Boyd, or Bria Hartley picking someone up in the back court, the rest of us get inspired to do the same thing, and that is when the run started.”
Amanda Zahui B on growth this season… “We get better playing games, but also in practice. Playing against great post players that are all very different. That is helping me develop my game.”
Sugar Rodgers on moving forward after loss against Phoenix… “Sometimes you get down like this, but it is about how you overcome. It is like adversity, how will you overcome it? We just have to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, and taking the good instead of the bad.”
Rodgers on contribution coming off the bench with eight points…
“I bring energy. I try to hit shots and keep my teammates uplifted. Like I said, the energy is what I try to bring off the bench.”