NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 – It all comes down to this, it will be winner take all when the New York Liberty hosts the Washington Mystics for a decisive game three of the WNBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m., on ESPN2.
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ALL-TIME: New York leads, 42-28
ALL-TIME PLAYOFFS: New York leads, 5-2
2015 SEASON: Washington, 4-2
LAST MEETING: NYL 86, WASH 68 (September 20, 2015)
After losing the first game in heartbreaking fashion, seeing late leads slip away in the fourth quarter and overtime, the Liberty bounced back in a big way Sunday on the road.
After Epiphanny prince completed a four-point play on the very first possession of the game, New York was off and running and never trailed at any point. The Mystics did manage to pull within seven in the third quarter, but Tina Charles ensured there would be no comeback this time.
She scored 17 of her game-high 22 in the third quarter, shooting 8-of-10 from the field in that period alone, at one point scoring on 6-of-8 offensive possessions.
While the 18-point margin of victory was the largest in a road playoff game in the Liberty’s history, that is not to say there are not areas of concern heading into Tuesday night.
Particularly, New York has struggled to stop Washington’s 3-point shooting. The Mystics drained 12-of-21 3-pointers in game two, a 57.1 percent clip from long distance, while the 12 triples were a Liberty opponent playoff record. Tayler Hill was particularly sharp. Coming off the bench to knock down 6-of-7 attempts.
For the series, Washington is shooting 46.3 percent from three, and although the Mystics made just 10 2-pointers in game two, its long-range shots have come at big times; it was an Ivory Latta three late in the fourth quarter that forced overtime in game one.
There were two things New York improved upon mightily in game two, which unquestionably impacted what turned into a comfortable win.
First, after turning the ball over 18 times and losing the points off turnovers battle 17-4 in game one, the Liberty tied a season low of eight turnovers in game two, and was a commanding +12 (16-4) in points off turnovers.
In addition to focusing on protecting the basketball, New York kept Washington out of the paint, particularly the Mystics’ guards. In the Liberty’s two wins over Washington this season, it has not allowed easy makes at the rim; in those two games New York has outscored the Mystics by a combined 80-24 in the paint, including 36-10 in game two.
Starters Tina Charles (22), Carolyn Swords (12) and Epiphanny Prince (11) all finished in double figures on Sunday, but Sugar Rodgers came off the bench to score 15 points in 18 minutes, and Essence Carson added nine points.
Overall New York received good production from its bench, where 32 points were contributed after just six bench points in a game one loss.
TINA CHARLES LIFTS LIBERTY TO PLAYOFF WIN
All-Star Tina Charles was nearly unstoppable in the third quarter in the Liberty’s game two victory over the Mystics, scoring 17 of her game-high 22 points while shooting 8-of-10 from the field. At one point she scored on 6-of-8 New York possession, capping off that dominant run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. In the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Washington, Charles has scored 22 points in each game and is shooting 41.7 percent from the field. While this is her first playoff series as a member of the Liberty, performing well under the bright lights is normal for Charles, who in nine-career playoff games is averaging 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
PRINCE SETS LIBERTY PLAYOFF SINGLE-GAME SCORING RECORD
Epiphanny Prince set a new Liberty playoff single-game scoring record with 26 points in game one against Washington on Sept. 18. She surpassed the previous New York record of 24 points, from Tari Phillips against Houston in game one of the WNBA Finals in 2000. Prince shot 11-of-16 from the field and also had five rebounds and four assists. Her previous personal best for a playoff game was 19 points against Atlanta last season when she was a member of the Chicago Sky. Her 44 minutes played would have also been a New York playoff all-time best, if not for Tina Charles setting that mark herself, playing 45 minutes against the Mystics in game one.
NEED FOR PROTECTING THE ROCK
After giving the ball away 18 times in its game one loss to Washington, which led to a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers for the Mystics, New York bounced back to match its season low of just eight turnovers in game two, and outscored Washington off turnovers 16-4. Taking care of the basketball is critical for every team, but the Liberty has proven wins and losses can often hinge on the turnover battle. New York is 13-2 this season when it commits fewer turnovers and is 14-3 when it scores more points off turnovers. The Liberty ranked just 10th in the league in turnovers, averaging 14.6 per game, due in large part to its tough start to the year. Through the first eight games of the season, New York turned the ball over 18.5 times per game, posting a 4-4 record during that stretch. Since then, the Liberty turned the ball over just 13.4 times per game, and went 19-7.
LIBERTY PLAYOFF BITES
- The Liberty is making its 13th appearance in the WNBA Playoffs and its first since 2012.
- New York’s all-time playoff record is 24-38.
- Friday night’s game was the first WNBA Playoffs contest at Madison Square Garden since Sept. 5, 2010.
- New York enters the postseason with home court throughout the playoffs for the first time in its history. The Liberty posted the best record in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2002.
- The Liberty’s 23 wins set a new franchise regular season record.
- New York is 5-2 all-time against the Mystics in the postseason, but had not played Washington since 2002.
MORE LIBERTY PLAYOFF NOTES
- The Liberty is 16-11 all-time in WNBA Playoffs home games.
- New York is 7-6 all-time in its first game of the postseason.
- The Liberty is 8-17 all-time in playoff road games.
- New York is 9-14 all-time in its first game of a WNBA Playoff series.
- The Liberty has won both previous playoff series with the Mystics, taking a 2-0 win in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2000 and a 2-1 win in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002.
- New York has won the Eastern Conference Title three times (1999, 2000, 2002) and been to the WNBA Finals four times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002).
LAST TIME OUT: NEW YORK 86, WASHINGTON 68
- Tina Charles led all scorers with 22 points. She scored 17 of those points in the 3rd quarter when she shot 8-of-10 from the field and hit a 3-pointer. She is averaging 22.0 ppg in the series.
- The Liberty never trailed in its wire-to-wire win. Epiphanny Prince completed a four-point play on the very first possession and scored seven points in the first 94 seconds to give New York an early lead it never relinquished.
- After getting just six points from its bench in game one, led by 15 points from Sugar Rodgers, the Liberty scored 32 bench points in game two.
- New York outscored Washington 36-10 in the paint.
- The Mystics made just 10 2-point field goals in the game. Washington shot 12-of-21 (.571) from three, but just 10-of-36 (.277) from inside the arc.
- Tayler Hill tied a Liberty opponent playoff record with six 3-point field goals. The Mystics’ 12 3-pointers were the most ever for a New York opponent in the playoffs.
- The 18-point win was New York’s largest margin of victory on the road in a playoff game in franchise history.
- The Liberty committed just eight turnovers, which tied a season low.
- Carolyn Swords scored 10 points in the first half to lead all scorers and was 5-of-6 from the field. She finished with 12.