In what could be a preview of an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup, the Liberty (12-15) beat the Dream (17-10) for the third time this season Sunday afternoon, winning 83-76 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
The first quarter had all the makings of another tight game between the Dream and the Liberty. With both teams suffering from sloppy play, neither one was able to create any separation in the first 10 minutes. Tina Charlesas she has done time and again this seasongot New York out to a fast start, but it was the surprising scoring output from Alex Montgomery that helped the Liberty keep a one-point lead after the first.
As the Dream settled down to start the second quarter, matters only got worse for New York. Three turnovers in the first two minutes of quarter resulted in a 6-0 Atlanta run, giving the Dream a five-point edge. Charles finally got the Liberty back on track with 6:45 on the clock by hitting a field goal from in close, the first basket for New York in more than six minutes. Sharp shooting from Montgomery and Anna Cruz and a nifty Charles three-point play gave the Liberty the lead back with 2:27 to play in the half. That lead would ultimately be short-lived however, as Atlanta rattled off another 6-0 run to close the half with a 35-34 lead.
New Yorks big three of Charles, Cruz and Cappie Pondexter came to life in the third quarter, giving the Liberty a double-digit lead that finally created some separation in the score. After a Tiffany Hayes three-point play cut the Dream deficit to just one with 4:20 left in the third, the Liberty trio embarked on an 13-2 run to seize control of the game. It took a Shoni Schimmel triple in the waning seconds of the quarter to cut New Yorks lead back to nine before the end of the period.
Much like in the July 16 game at Madison Square Garden, a double-digit deficit did not discourage the Eastern Conference-leading Dream. Led by All-Star Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta continued to play pesky defense, frustrating the Liberty and creating opportunities to cut into the New York lead. For all their efforts, the Dream were unable to get any closer than seven points in the final frame, when McCoughtry connected on a 3-pointer with mere seconds remaining.
The Liberty were led once again by Charles, who recorded a double-double with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Cruz scored a career-high 18 points and Pondexter added 13 pointsall in the second halfand seven assists. New York dominated the glass all afternoon, outrebounding the Dream 34-26.
New York returns to action this Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the team faces the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center.