NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 1, 2015 – The New York Liberty is getting ready to enter the home stretch of the 2015 season, starting Tuesday night when it hosts the Atlanta Dream at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
The Liberty has six regular season games remaining, four of which will be played on The Garden floor, and the team’s magic number to clinch the top see in the East is down to three.
But winning the East is just the first of many goals, at 20-8 New York boasts the best winning percentage in the WNBA and with two fewer losses than Western Conference leading Minnesota, home court throughout the playoffs remains a possibility.
The first obstacle in that quest is an Atlanta team that is fighting to stay alive in the East playoff race. The Dream sit 4.5 games behind Indiana for fourth place with five games to play, meaning at a minimum Atlanta must go undefeated the rest of the way to have a chance at a postseason berth.
New York has taken three-of-for to win the season series against Atlanta for the second year in a row, most recently picking up a 78-67 victory over the Dream on August 21.
The Liberty limited a high-scoring Atlanta squad to just 35.8 percent from the field, and Angel McCoughtry netted only 13 points. Still, it was a close game into the fourth quarter, where New York eventually pulled away thanks to Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince.
Pulling away in the fourth has become part of New York’s identity this year. The Liberty is allowing just 16.2 fourth quarter points per game, and overall is outscoring its opponents by 3.0 points per game in the second half.
Prince, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, is averaging 16.0 ppg in two matchups with Atlanta, netting 18 points in the most recent tilt.
Atlanta is the second-highest scoring team in the league at 78.2 ppg, but ranks last in team defense, yielding 81.3 ppg while allowing opponents to shoot 44.1 percent from the field.
PLAYOFFS! LIBERTY CLINCH 2015 WNBA PLAYOFF BERTH
- With its 81-68 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on August 28, the Liberty secured a berth into the 2015 WNBA Playoffs.
- New York qualifies for the postseason for the first time since 2012, ending a two-season drought.
- It is the 13th all-time postseason berth in franchise history.
- When New York hosts a playoff game later this month, it will be the first WNBA postseason game to be played at Madison Square Garden since 2010.
- The Liberty has been to the WNBA finals four times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002)
- New York’s all-time playoff record is 24-31 (.436) and it has not won a playoff series since 2010.
MAKING A CASE FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Kiah Stokes is having one of the most impressive rookie seasons in the WNBA and is making a solid case for being considered the league’s Rookie of the Year. In terms of total all-around impact and overall team success, it is tough to argue any first year player is more critical to team success than Stokes, who leads all rookies in blocks and rebounds per game and field goal percentage. With Stokes helping anchor the interior, the Liberty lead the league in points against and defensive field goal percentage, and is the toughest team to score against in the paint. She is coming off a 12 point, 10 rebound performance in a win at Connecticut on Saturday night.
LAST TIME OUT – NEW YORK 80, CONNECTICUT 66
- New York becomes the first team in the WNBA to reach 20 wins this season and the fastest to do so in franchise history.
- The Liberty shot 71.4 percent (10-of-14) in the first quarter.
- The Liberty entered the fourth quarter tied for the first time this season.
- New York ended the game on a 19-5 run.
- The Liberty has the best road record in the league, now 10-5 away from Madison Square Garden
- New York shot a season-high 55.9 percent from the field.
- Kiah Stokes had her 3rd double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
- New York has now won the season series against the Sun, taking all three games the teams have played so far this year.
SEASON-HIGH FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE AGAINST THE SUN
The Liberty shot a season-best 55.9 percent from the field in its 80-66 win at Connecticut on August 29, combining to shoot 33-of-59 as a team. It is the fourth time this season New York has shot higher than 50 percent from the field and the Liberty is 4-0 in those games. All four of those occurrences have come over the last eight games of the year. For the season, New York is shooting .434 from the field, but over the last eight games that percentage jumps all the way up to .488.
MAGIC NUMBER FOR THE EAST NOW AT THREE
Now that the Liberty has clinched its first playoff berth since 2012, the focus shifts to gaining home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. With six games remaining in the regular season. New York holds a three-game lead over the rest of the field in the east, making its magic number to clinch home court three. The Liberty is tied in the win column with Minnesota at 20, but has two fewer losses, so to guarantee the best record in the league New York must win five of its final six games, but one of those comes against the Lynx.
NEW YORK VS. ATLANTA 2015 SEASON SERIES
- New York is 3-1 against Atlanta this season, most recently winning 78-67 on August 21 at Madison Square Garden.
- Tina Charles is nearly averaging a double-double against the Dream, at 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
- The Liberty defense has limited the Dream to just 72.0 ppg, well below its season average of 78.2 ppg. Twice, New York has held Atlanta under 70 points.
- Angel McCoughtry is averaging 22.3 ppg in four games against New York this season, but had a season series low of 13 in the last meeting 10 days ago at The Garden.
- New York has won the season series against the Dream for the second year in a row and is 21-11 all-time against Atlanta for a winning percentage of .656, its best against any WNBA franchise in its 19-year history.
- Rookie guard Brittany Boyd is averaging well above her season average in scoring when it comes to facing Atlanta, where she ranks third on the team at 12.3 ppg. She has scored in double figures in three of the four games against the Dream this year.