Liberty Faces Must-Win Sunday at Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – SEPTEMBER 19, 2015 – The New York Liberty will look to stave off elimination when it faces the Washington Mystics in game two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center. The game will tipoff at 1 p.m., and air on ESPN.

WATCH: ESPN
RADIO: None
NEW YORK GAME NOTES: CLICK HERE
ALL-TIME POSTSEASON: New York leads, 4-2
2015 SEASON: Washington, 4-1
LAST MEETING: WASH 86, NYL 83 (2OT) (September 18, 2015)

For New York, the focus will be more on execution than overhauling the approach. Friday night’s game one was tight nearly from the start, outside of big runs from both teams in the first half, which saw New York take a 10-point lead in the first quarter, only to have Washington answer with a 13-5 spurt, neither team led by more than five points during the fourth quarter and overtime, and for a majority of that stretch no lead was greater than one possession.

It was the Liberty that appeared to make the big plays requisite to pull off a playoff win. Tina Charles, who finished with 22 points, scored five points in the final minute of regulation to put her team up by three, only to see Ivory Latta nail a game-tying triple to force overtime.

Again in the first overtime period, the Liberty had the upper hand. In front by four points with 40 seconds to play, Washington proved it had the playmakers to win in the playoffs, as veteran point guard Kara Lawson drove baseline with time winding down to dish off to All-Star Emma Meesseman for the game-tying bucket with 1.6 to play.

So with the teams appearing to be so evenly matched in game one, it comes down to executing the game plan on Sunday.

All season long, bench scoring has been an asset for New York. Averaging 27.5 bench points per game during the regular season, which ranked second in the WNBA, the Liberty saw just a season-low seven points come from its reserves on Friday.

The loss of rookie point guard Brittany Boyd to a fractured wrist is tough to overcome, but head coach Bill Laimbeer is likely to ask for the second unit to deliver on Sunday, especially after seeing three starters play more than 40 minutes in game one.

Controlling the paint is the second key. Washington outscored New York on the interior 36-26, which matched the largest point differential the Liberty faced there all season long, and was just the third time overall any team scored more points in the paint than the Liberty.

Stats like that emphasize that controlling the low post is critical for New York. In its win at Washington earlier in the season the Liberty outscored the Mystics by a commanding 44-14 margin.

A win on Sunday would shift the series back to Madison Square Garden for a winner take all game three.

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.

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 23-38.
  • 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 4-2 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, and this will be the first postseason game at Madison Square Garden since 2010.
  • New York is 7-6 all-time in its first game of the postseason.
  • The Liberty is 7-17 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: WASHINGTON 86, NEW YORK 83 (2OT)

  • New York’s bench was outscored by Washington’s 33-7. The Liberty averaged 27.5 bench points per game during the regular season, the second-best mark in the league.
  • The Mystics won the paint scoring battle 36-26; it was just the third time this year New York was outscored in the paint.
  • Epiphanny Prince set a new Liberty playoff record with 26 points, which was also a new playoff career best.
  • Tina Charles logged 45 minutes of action in game one, a New York playoff record. She finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.
  • New York turned the ball over 18 times, which led to 17 Washington Points, while the Mystics turned it over just 11 times, with the Liberty scoring only four points off turnovers, a 13 points advantage for Washington. New York had been turning it over just 13.4 times per game over the final 26 games of the regular season.
  • The Liberty is now 4-2 all-time against the Mystics in the WNBA Playoffs, but is 1-4 against Washington this season.
  • New York is now 2-1 in overtime games in 2015. The Liberty and Mystics have gone to overtime twice, with the Liberty winning 79-76 in overtime at Washington back on July 9, was marked the season debut for Prince.
  • New York missed 10 free throws, shooting just 16-of-26 at the line while Washington shot 19-of-24 (.792).
  • The Liberty has lost three games in a row for the first time this season.

BIG TIME EXPERIENCE
There are several Liberty players that have extensive playoff experience, and four have won a WNBA Championship. Swin Cash has played in 50-career postseason games and won three WNBA Championships, two with Detroit (2003 & 2006) and one with Seattle (2010). Tanisha Wright was teammates with Cash during the Seattle Storm’s 2010 championship season. Candice Wiggins captured a title as a member of the Minnesota Lynx in 2011, and Sugar Rodgers was on the Lynx 2013 championship squad. Head Coach Bill Laimbeer has won three WNBA Championships, all three as the head coach of the Detroit Shock (2003, 2006, 2008), and has a career playoff coaching record of 43-28 (.606).

Additionally, Essence Carson has been to the playoffs with the Liberty in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Epiphanny Prince helped Chicago reach the WNBA Finals last season, and also played in the postseason in 2013. Tina Charles made back-to-back playoff appearances in Connecticut (2011, 2012), and Avery Warley-Talbert was also a member of the Sky’s 2013 playoff team.