PHOENIX, ARIZ. – JULY 18, 2015 – The New York Liberty overcame a seven-point deficit with fewer than three minutes to play to escape with a 75-73 win at Phoenix on Saturday night at the US Airways Center and secure its best start since 2001.
Guard Epiphanny Prince came up huge down the stretch for New York (10-5) sinking a go-ahead bucket in the paint with 30.2 remaining, then the game-winning free throws with just 1.7 on the clock en route to a season-high 17 points.
New York is the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach 10 wins and the Liberty is 10-5 overall and off to its best start since back in 2001, when it finished 21-11 overall, which included a 16-5 mark to start the year.
Phoenix (9-6), which had won six-straight and was 6-1 at home prior to Saturday night’s loss, broke open a one-point game at the half with an 18-12 edge in the third quarter, limiting the Liberty to just 19.0 percent shooting during that frame.
The Mercury led by as many as eight in the fourth, and appeared to be on the way to victory when Noelle Quinn buried a triple at 3:03 to make it 69-62, but New York would close the game with a 13-4 run.
The Liberty bounced right back. Tanisha Wright converted on a 3-point play on the other end, and then New York ratcheted up its signature defensive intensity, led by rookie Brittany Boyd who stole three passes over the final 2:41.
Boyd’s first steal resulted in a foul as she went to the basket, where she hit 1-of-2 at the line. With 1:07 to play she struck again, stripping Marta Xargay and sprinting down the floor for a fast-break two, making it a one-point game.
The Mercury would turn the ball over once again; on the ensuing possession it was none other than Boyd with the steal. She missed the contested layup, but Wright was there to grab the board. After a timeout Prince made her way into the paint for a tough driving layup to give New York its first lead since 4:31 remained in the third.
After a DeWanna Bonner miss from three Boyd hit 1-of-2 at the line, but overtime seemed imminent when Brittney Griner came through with a clutch turnaround 7-footer with just 3.8 to play.
However, Prince was fouled by Bonner as she crossed over near the top of the key, pulling the trigger on a long two. She made both free throws and the Mercury were unable to get off a final shot.
Tina Charles finished with a game-high 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season and the 104th of her career. Boyd finished with 13 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter, and Sugar Rodgers made it four in double figures for New York with 10 points.
The Liberty overcame a fourth-quarter deficit for the first time this year, entering the game with an 0-5 mark when trailing heading into the final period. New York took 13 more shots at the line, which included a 15-2 disparity in the second half. The Liberty was dominant on the glass, where it held a 45-29 edge.
Neither team managed to find much in terms of separation in the first half. The largest lead held by either team was five, and the Mercury led 37-36 at the half. In all there were six ties and eight lead changes
The Liberty were out to a strong start, forcing Phoenix to miss its first five shot attempts from the field while taking a 7-2 lead as Charles got a jumper to drop. She led all scorers with seven of her 10 first half points coming in the opening quarter, helping New York take an 18-17 lead through 10 minutes of play.
Rodgers came off the bench to provide a big spark for New York, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and slicing to the rim on a backdoor cut to net eight of her 10 points.
Her first 3-pointer was from way behind the line, providing the Liberty with a 21-17 lead early in the second quarter. Her second triple broke a 21-21 tie and then Kiah Stokes hooked her up with a crisp pass to the baseline that she finished easily.
The Mercury answered that make with a 10-2 run over the next 3:08, taking its largest lead, 33-28, on a Bonner layup. New York closed strong, getting to the line three times down the stretch to cut its deficit down to one.
A 9-2 Phoenix run over the final 2:46 of the third quarter broke open what had been no more than a two-possession game to that point. The Mercury did it with the three ball, first Cayla Francis hit from the corner then 90 seconds later it was Marta Xargay from the top of the key to make it 53-48.
New York’s West Coast road swing continues on Tuesday, July 21, when it faces the Seattle Storm. Tipoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. (ET) and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
NEW YORK LIBERTY POSTGAME NOTES
- At 10-5, New York is off to its best start since the 2001 season. That year the Liberty went 21-11 and finished second in the Eastern Conference.
- Brittany Boyd’s 13 points are the most since her season- high and game leading 18 at Atlanta on May 21.
- New York has now won three in a row for the second time this season and the Liberty are 6-1 over its last seven games.
- New York shot 77.8 percent from the line (21-of-27) while Phoenix attempted just 14 free throws.
- The Liberty attempted a season-high 77 field goals, but shot just 32.5 percent from the field.
- Tina Charles finished with 14 rebounds, the most for a Liberty player this season.
- New York was 0-5 this season when trailing heading into the fourth quarter before that comeback win.
- The Liberty swept the season series with Phoenix for the first time since 2012 and won at Phoenix for the first time since an 89-77 win at US Airways Center on Aug. 22, 2012.
- New York improved to 4-1 against the Western Conference this season.
- The Liberty came back to tie Phoenix 32-32 in points in the paint. New York has not been outscored in the paint yet this season, although it has been tied twice.