NEW YORK NY – JUNE 2, 2016 – The New York Liberty closes out a five-game home stand when it hosts the Indiana Fever at Madison Square Garden on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. It is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, a series the Fever took in three games.
Friday night’s contest also represents the last time Liberty fans will have a chance to watch Tamika Catchings play during primetime at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Catchings, who has announced she will retire at the end of the 2016 season, is the WNBA’s second all-time scorer, just recently eclipsing 7,000-career points.
• Tina Charles has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the 6th time in her career and the third as a member of the Liberty. She led the WNBA in scoring (23.4 ppg) and rebounding (11.8 rpg) during the month of May, when she was also named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week (5/24). Her six Player of the Month awards are second all-time, trailing just Maya Moore (7).
• New York suffered a 79-69 loss to the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. After trailing by as many as 23, the Liberty fought back to pull withing six approaching two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but was unable to cut any further into its deficit down the stretch. Tina Charles led the way with her fifth-straight double-double, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
• Shavonte Zellous is coming off her best game as a member of the Liberty. Against the Lynx on Tuesday, Zellous finished with 12 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field.
• After Friday night’s game against Indiana, New York will embark on the first of its two West Coast road trips this season. Coming off a 5-game homestand the Liberty will play 6-of-7 on the road.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While all eyes are on Tina Charles as she continues to post historically great numbers to start the season, Shavonte Zellous broke out earlier in the week against the Lynx, and is also facing her former team in the Fever. Zellous spent nearly six seasons playing for Indiana before signing with the Liberty during the offseason. She had her greatest impact on Tuesday, scoring 12 points while shooting 5-of-7 from the field.
Zellous ranks 3rd on the team in scoring, averaging 7.2 ppg, and the Liberty will be looking to her to provide an additional scoring boost to take some of the pressure off of Charles and Rodgers. It will also be critical for the Liberty to keep Catchings off the line and lock down on rookie Tiffany Mitchell, who leads the Fever with 14.8 ppg.
Controlling the paint should prove to be critical on Friday night. The Fever and Liberty rank first and second respectively in the league in points in the paint, with both over 38 ppg on the interior, but it is New York that also leads the league in inside defense, allowing a WNBA-best 27.2 ppg in the paint. However, the Liberty is coming off its first game of the season being outscored in the paint, with the Lynx holding a 32-28 edge.