As the New York Liberty prepares to host a single-elimination WNBA Playoff 2nd Round game on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, take a look back at five of the biggest story lines that defined the history 20th season in 2016. From Tina Charles turning in the greatest individual season in team history, to the Liberty continuing to establish itself as a dominant defensive team, these are the things to watch for as the postseason finally gets underway!
Tina Charles is a front-runner for WNBA because of the consistent dominating effort she put forth every night, which resulted in her becoming just the 3rd player in history to lead the league in both scoring (21.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.9 rpg).
Charles is also the 1st New York Liberty player to lead the league in either statistical category, and she took down both crowns in the same season. Her 21.5 ppg easily surpassed her previous career-high of 18.0 ppg in 2012 and 2013, and while the 9.9 rpg is not a career-best, it is her fourth WNBA rebounding title, and the first since she won three-straight from 2010-12.
Sugar Rodgers emerged as a WNBA Most Improved candidate this season, as she turned in one of the best 3-point shooting seasons in league history, and by far the best in the history of the New York Liberty. Rodgers averaged a career-high 8.1 ppg last year, but leapt to 14.5 ppg this season, while contributing in nearly every facet of the game.
She sunk a franchise-record 86 3-pointers, surpassing the previous mark held by Shameka Christon (78 in 2011) and shot .413 from 3-point range, which ranked 5th in the league. Rodgers proved she has the ability to be a top scoring threat every night.
Shortly before the Olympic break, it looked like Brittany Boyd had begun to improve from what had already been an impressive rookie season, scoring a then season-high 17 points in a win at Washington, and averaging 6.5 assists per game over the final two contests heading into the hiatus.
Due to injury she was thrust into the starting lineup in September, and went on to post huge assist and steal numbers, vaulting all the way up to fourth in the league with 1.6 steals per game, and settling at 15th in the WNBA with 3.8 assists per game. Boyd recorded at least six assists in 9-of-10 games heading into the playoffs, which included a career-high 10 at Dallas on Sept. 11. Additionally, she had five games of at least three steals over that stretch.
DEFENSE STILL REIGNS
The Liberty is known as one of the top defensive teams in the league, and the 2016 season continued that trend as New York once again lead the league in defensive field goal percentage (.413) and proved to be the toughest team to score on in the paint in the league.
New York saw its opponents shoot just .504 on shots inside of five feet, the next closest team would be Minnesota at .540, and the league average was .571. Controlling the paint proved to be key all season, as the Liberty saw 18 of its 21 wins come when it won points in the paint.
After posting a WNBA-best and franchise record 23 wins last season, the Liberty topped 20 victories again in 2016, finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 21-13. It is just the second time in franchise history New York posted consecutive seasons of at least 20 victories, and the first since 2000-01.