The New York Liberty closes out a two-game home stand when it hosts the Chicago Sky on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
The Liberty has won three in a row and is looking for its fourth winning streak of at least four games this season. New York is closing in on the best record in the Eastern Conference and potentially the best overall mark in the WNBA.
The magic number to clinch home court in the East is currently at two; that is something the franchise has not done since 2002. Also on the line Tuesday, an opportunity to match the Liberty single-season wins record of 22, set in 2010.
New York has swept all three games from Chicago this year, beating the Sky 84-63 at Madison Square Garden back on August 11. WNBA leading scorer Elena Delle Donne missed the game due to an ankle injury, and is questionable for Thursday night’s contest as well, having recently missed time due to a foot ailment.
Former Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter suffered a concussion in Chicago’s win at Atlanta last weekend, and sat out in the home loss to Connecticut last Sunday as a result.
The Sky will pose a formidable threat as the highest paced offense in the league, averaging 82.5 ppg, although they have struggled against the WNBA’s top defensive unit in New York, scoring just 69.0 ppg in three meetings.
Epiphanny Prince has been fantastic in two games against her former team, pouring in 30 points in her first matchup back on August 7, and following that up with 22 just four days later.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Liberty’s offensive success against Chicago is how much if it has come from 3-point range. New York thrives in the paint, having been outscored there just twice all season, and is shooting only 31.4 percent from long-distance as a team. But against Chicago, the Liberty average 7.0 threes per game and are hitting at an impressive 45.7 percent clip.
In the event the Sky are shorthanded, New York’s focus will shift to versatile point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who ranks first in the WNBA averaging 5.8 apg and is averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 assists against New York this year.
MAGIC NUMBER TO CLINCH THE EAST DOWN TO TWO
The New York Liberty boasts the best record in the WNBA at 21-8 and needs just two wins over its final five games to secure the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Liberty has entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the East three times, most recently in 2002 when it advanced to WNBA Finals before falling 2-0 to Los Angeles. Additionally, New York sits just one game shy of the franchise single-season wins record, set back in 2010, when it finished 22-12 overall and placed second in the East, advancing to the conference finals. The Liberty has already clinched a playoff berth, its first since 2012, and is off to a 21-8 start for the first time in franchise history. Three more wins over the final five games would secure home court throughout the playoffs.
SWEET AS SUGAR
Guard Sugar Rodgers came off the bench to lead the New York Liberty to a come-from-behind 80-75 overtime victory over the Atlanta Dream on September 1 at Madison Square Garden, tying a career-high of 23 points while nailing a personal best five 3-pointers in the win. For Rodgers, it was the first game scoring in double figures since she netted 10 points in a win at Phoenix back on July 18. She started six games earlier in the year while Epiphanny Prince missed time to compete internationally, scoring in double figures in every start, but had eclipsed 10-points just twice since the second week of July. She currently ranks 38th in the WNBA in scoring, averaging 8.3 ppg.
LAST TIME OUT – NEW YORK 80, ATLANTA 75 (OT)
- New York improves to 21-8, one win shy of matching the franchise record set in 2010.
- Sugar Rodgers scored 23 points matching a career-high. First game in double figures since scoring 10 points at Phoenix on July 18.
- Second OT game of the year for New York; won at Washington 79-76 on July 9. The Liberty now 2-0 in OT.
- New York went 4-1 this year against Atlanta and swept all three at Madison Square Garden.
- The Liberty’s magic number to clinch the best record in the East is two with five games to play.
- Atlanta held scoreless over final 3:17 of regulation.
- New York improved to 11-3 at Madison Square Garden this season.
KIAH STOKES NAMED WNBA ROOKIE OF THE MONTH
Kiah Stokes of the New York Liberty was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month presented by Samsung for games played in August. Stokes led all rookies in rebounds (8.3 rpg), field goal percentage (.564, 31-for-55), and blocks (1.5 bpg) for the month. She also placed second in minutes per game (27.8 mpg), third in free throw percentage (.833, 10-for-12), and fifth in points (7.2 ppg). Stokes ranked fourth among all WNBA players in rebounds and field goal percentage while tying for fifth in blocks. She collected 10 or more rebounds in five of her 10 games played in August.
MAKING A CASE FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Kiah Stokes is having one of the most impressive rookie seasons in the WNBA and is making a solid case for being considered the league’s Rookie of the Year. In terms of total all-around impact and overall team success, it is tough to argue any first year player is more critical to team success than Stokes, who leads all rookies in blocks and rebounds per game and field goal percentage. With Stokes helping anchor the interior, the Liberty lead the league in points against and defensive field goal percentage, and is the toughest team to score against in the paint. She is coming off a 12 point, 10 rebound performance in a win at Connecticut on Saturday night.
NEW YORK VS. CHICAGO 2015 SEASON SERIES
- New York is 3-0 against Chicago this season, most recently winning 84-63 on August 11 at Madison Square Garden.
- New York is averaging 83.3 ppg against the Sky, while holding Chicago, the highest scoring team in the league to just 69.0 ppg.
- Epiphanny Prince scored 30 points in her first game against Chicago, a WNBA record for scoring in a player’s first game against a former team.
- Tina Charles is averaging a double-double of 16.0 ppg and 10.3 rpg in three game with the Sky.
- Elena Delle Donne missed the last game due to an ankle injury.
- New York’s 3-point shooting proficiency has been better against Chicago than any other team. The Liberty is shooting .314 from 3-point range for the season, but against the Sky, New York is averaging 7.0 3-pointers per game and shooting 45.7 percent.
EPIPHANNY PRINCE NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK A SECOND TIME
Guard Epiphanny Prince was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season and the fourth of her career on Aug. 31; she previously received the honor two weeks prior on Aug. 17. Prince, who helped New York post a 2-0 record for the week, led the Eastern Conference in scoring (20.0 ppg), was tied for second in steals (2.0 spg), ranked fifth in field goal percentage (.586 on 17-of-29 shooting), and tied for seventh in assists (3.0 apg). She scored 22 points in a win over Minnesota and followed that up with 18 points in a win at Connecticut the next night.