The Washington Mystics never trailed after the 7:41 mark in the first quarter, beating the New York Liberty 9578.
The Liberty played without two members of their regular starting lineup, Shavonte Zellous and Epiphanny Prince. Zellous is nursing a right ankle sprain, while Prince is recovering from a right eye contusion.
The Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne was on fire in the early going, making her first six shots from the field for 15 first quarter points. She finished with a game-high 30 points.
With her second three of the first quarter, Sugar Rodgers moved into fourth in Liberty history in makes from behind the arc. The guard made her third start of the season in the contest, and she finished with 16 points, draining four of her seven attempts from deep.
The Liberty were facing a single-digit deficit at halftime, but the Mystics outscored them 32-18 in the third quarter.
Tina Charles scored the first nine Liberty points of the fourth quarter, making four straight shots over that span. With her 19th point of the contest, she scored her 3,000th point in a Liberty uniform.
Kia Nurse followed Charles’ run by scoring eight straight points of her own midway through the fourth. The rookie finished with 10 points, and she is averaging 13.7 points per game over her last three.
Charles paced the Liberty with 22 points, her 11th game this season with over 20 points. She also contributed five rebounds and five assists.
Kiah Stokes recorded a block for the fifth consecutive game. The center is one rejection away from becoming the sole franchise leader.
The Liberty brought down just 23 rebounds in the contest, one more than their season-low.
The Mystics swept the season series, winning all three matchups. They’ve won their last four against the Liberty, dating back to their playoff victory last season.
The loss marked the Liberty’s third straight.
Mike Thibault on third quarter performance… “We talked about at half-time the first three or four possessions, we needed on both ends of the floor. We had to execute on offense to get a lane and some easy touches, which we did. I think it was Ariel [Atkins] who made a three, but we got stops three or four times in a row to start the period too and that changed the whole momentum. You get an 8-0 run to start the quarter, and then you put them on their heels the rest of the game. That’s when they have to play catch up the rest of the game.”
Thibault on today’s double teams… “When [Elena Delle Donne] is hitting shots early it does make it easier for the rest of the team. If you get one more shooter on the perimeter like the Liberty were able to do, soon as Ariel [Atkins] and Kristi [Tolliver] start knocking down a three or two, then it’s hard to double-team [Delle Donne].”
Thibault on team’s initial defensive approach… “They have Tina Charles and they have shooters around her. We did a good job limiting that early, but I thought we fell asleep a couple of times, but I thought we helped out when we didn’t need to. We had extra people and then [leaving open] [Kia] Nurse, [Rebecca] Allen and [Bria] Hartley at the three-point line as well as Sugar [Rodgers].”
Kristi Toliver on team performance … “I feel like today we played as a group. We finally got aggressive going to the rim and that was kind of the difference between today and the other night. Just being aggressive to the basket.”
Toliver on importance of win after back-to-back road loses… “We know how important every game is right now. We want to feel good leading up to All-Star break and we need wins. We know everyone is really close and kind of in the middle. One day you can be second and the next day you can be seventh. We just want to get better every day, focus on the right things and play the right way. Hopefully those things will lead us to wins.”
Elena Delle Donne on balance scoring from team… “That’s what great teams do. You just can’t have the scoring on one or two people. If you’re able to kind of spread, it out and everyone can stay attacking and aggressive and feeling good that’s when offense is the best and flow. It just makes it hard for the defense because you can’t focus into just one or two players, chasing them all around the court.”
Delle Donne on Liberty’s fourth quarter rally… “They’re a great team. They have great players and you know Tina [Charles] can go off at any point so, she started the fire and then everybody else caught on; but luckily we were able to take the punch and finish the game off strong.”
Tina Charles on falling short despite fourth quarter rally… “They were making a lot of shots. There was good defense being played but a lot of different players were making shots [for them]. That gets you down, but starting the third quarter, in my mind I said let me do whatever I can to keep the energy up in my play.”
Charles on making the playoffs and consistency through fourth quarters… “Just building on the little things that we need to win games. At the end of the day, whatever the end result is we have to keep focusing on ourselves and what we are trying to accomplish and at the end of the season see the result.”
Charles on the team’s resiliency and bench production in the fourth… “We have to do that for four quarters. That effort and energy that we brought. Making shots or not, that’s how we have to play, consistently.”
Charles on making the All-Star team… “I am very thankful. I am very blessed to be in this situation to be on the All-Star team. I am very thankful to be in this league at all.”
Kia Nurse on coming off the bench in the fourth quarter… “Usually my energy comes on the defensive end, trying to make plays on that side. Fortunately, I had two really great screens from my teammates to get those two big shots, so ‘thank you,’ to my teammates for that one.”
Sugar Rodgers on scoring 16 points in starting role… “It feels good, I just went in and did my job. My job is to go in there and score, defend, rebound, share the ball and have fun.”
Rodgers on playoff push… “We want to finish strong. Keep our heads up and just know that every night it’s going to be tough, but we have to go out there and give it our all.”
Rebecca Allen on coming off the bench in the absence of starts… “I guess it is all about staying mentally ready, mentally and physically. So, whenever my name is called I will be ready to go. That’s how it is, and that’s how everybody on this team has had to deal with, with key players sitting out. We want to finish strong. Finish together and play every game the full four quarters. that is really important for us and that is something we haven’t really done the last few games.”
Head coach Katie Smith’s opening statement… “Tough loss today. In spurts, we had energy, we rebounded well, and the defense was solid. We made some shots and we were aggressive. Maybe we can bottle that up and carry it over for four quarters going forward.”
Smith on Kia Nurse… “Her defense is going to be great. She is always out there battling, drawing fouls, and flying around. Kia [Nurse] hit some threes tonight. I think she has had a nice little stretch the past three or four games. She has been putting the ball on the floor and knocking down the three ball. The key is just reading the defense and continue to take what they give her. Her approach every night is consistent and we know what we are going to get from her every night. It may not be in the box score but we know the effort and energy she is going to bring every night.”
Smith on the playoff push… “It is going to be tough. Our focus is just to show up every day and be proud of our performance. It is tough to win in this league. We must go out with nothing to lose. We have time to continue to improve and get some wins.”