NEW YORK, N.Y. – JUNE 26, 2016 – The New York Liberty lost a heartbreaker to the Phoenix Mercury, 104-97 in overtime, on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Sunday was the Liberty’s 20th Season Celebration presented by Coca-Cola at Madison Square Garden, highlighted by a reunion of the inaugural 1997 Liberty team, which was introduced to the crowd prior to tipoff.
All but one member of that team was present for the reunion, with the presentation featuring the original video graphics from the very first Liberty season and each player’s personal intro video. At the conclusion of the starting lineups, two generations of Liberty players, the 1997 team and 2016 were at center court together.
The Liberty led by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, despite trailing 18-4 early in the action, but Phoenix closed the final period on a 10-4 run, knotting the score on three Dina Taurasi free throws with 7.8 remaining.
Tina Charles’ final attempt at the end of regulation was no good, and New York headed to an extra period for the third time in the last four games.
This time it was the Mercury coming out strong in OT. Phoenix scored six of the first eight points of overtime, taking a 95-91 lead on a Penny Taylor runner at 3:15. Twice New York was able to pull within two, but Candice Dupree converted on consecutive possessions to push the margin to six with a minute to play.
Charles paced the Liberty, finishing with a team-high 26 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Sugar Rodgers notched the sixth 20-point game of her career, scoring 23 with five 3-pointers, and Shavonte Zellous led the second unit with 13 points.
Kiah Stokes finished with 9 points and eight rebounds, and Brittany Boyd notched eight points and a pair of assists. New York’s bench outscored the Mercury’s reserves 39-8, and only two bench players recorded a field goal for the Mercury.
Phoenix was red hot to start the game, taking an 18-4 lead just 3:12 into the action behind eight early points and a pair of triples from Taurasi.
New York eventually found its footing, pulling within 24-17 on a Charles drive to the hoop, and trailed by just eight heading into the second quarter. That momentum shift carried over, with the Liberty’s second unit powering the comeback.
Boyd converted on a difficult reverse as she was fouled to make it 28-26, and the game was tied as Zellous drained a pull-up jumper.
After facing a one-point deficit at the half, the Liberty ended the third on an 11-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 67-57. Again it was strong bench play powering New York. Following a Rodgers three, the Liberty saw Amanda Zahui B and Boyd score the final six points of the period.
New York embarks on a three-game road trip starting Wednesday, June 29, when it faces the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx in Minneapolis. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET).
• Tina Charles scored at least 21 points for the seventh-straight game, as she continues to lead the WNBA in scoring.
• Sugar Rodgers notched her fourth 20-point game of the season and nailed at least five 3-pointers for the third time this year.
• New York outscored the Mercury 21-10 in the third quarter.
• Phoenix ended the game with a 33-15 edge in free throw attempts and outscored New York by 15 points at the line
• The Liberty bench outscored the Mercury second unit 39-8, and New York dominated the paint with a 54-38 edge
• New York saw its third game out of its last four outings head to overtime and the fifth game this season. The Liberty is now 2-3 in OT in 2016.