NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 10, 2015 – The New York Liberty will close out the home portion of its regular season schedule when it hosts the Washington Mystics at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m.
For the Liberty, it seems like each of the last several games has allowed the team to check off another item from its list of goals. First, secure the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2012, accomplished with a win over Minnesota on Aug. 28.
Nine days later, New York secured the top-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs for the first time since 2002, picking up another win over the Lynx, which also helped build towards finishing with the top overall seed.
Thanks to Wednesday night’s win over the Connecticut Sun, the road to the 2015 WNBA Title has to run through Madison Square Garden as for the first time in its history the Liberty will finish the regular season with the best record in the WNBA. Already posting a franchise-record 23 victories is a bonus.
But over a week remains until the playoffs officially begin on Sept. 18, at The Garden. New York knows it will face either Indiana or Washington in the conference semifinals, the key now is to stay hot and maintain momentum heading into the playoffs.
After Wednesday nights win, Bill Laimbeer said he intended to continue to keep fighting for every win. Some minutes may change for players in order to help rest up for the postseason, but the end goal remains the same – to win every game.
Washington has won 2-of-3 against the Liberty this season, but the teams have not met in over two months, since July 9, a game which saw Epiphanny Prince make her season debut and New York come away with a 79-76 win in overtime.
Prince came off the bench to score 12 points in that win, while Tina Charles posted a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Prince has started every game since then, and gone on to score in double figures in 21-of-22 games this year.
Washington has struggled as of late, just 1-4 in its last five as Kara Lawson has missed time due to injury. Stefanie Dolson, who for the season is averaging 10.9 points per game and shooting 50.0 percent from the field has just 13 field goals and 5.6 ppg over the last five games. Compare that to the last time Washington played New York and the All-Star shot 11-of-18 from the floor to finish with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Liberty continues to get steady contributions from several sources. Tina Charles and Prince are the focal point offensively, but every night a different player seems to step up.
In a win last week over Atlanta, Sugar Rodgers matched a career-high of 23 points, knocking down five 3-pointers. Over the weekend, Tanisha Wright and Swin Cash both dished out seven assists in a win at Minnesota, and Prince had 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against the Sun on Wednesday.
LIBERTY CLINCHES HOME COURT THROUGHOUT WNBA PLAYOFFS
With its 74-64 win over the Connecticut Sun on Sept. 9, the Liberty clinched home court advantage throughout the WNBA Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. New York had already secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2002, but is now the first squad from the East to post the best record in the league since Detroit, led by Bill Laimbeer, did so in 2007. Additionally, the 23 regular season wins represent a new franchise record, surpassing the previous mark of 22, set in 2010, which was also the last time a WNBA Playoff game was played at The Garden. New York is 12-4 on its home court so far this season.
LIBERTY SEASON HEADLINES
- New York will enter the WNBA Playoffs as the top overall seed for the first time in franchise history.
- New York currently sits at 23-9 overall, posting the most regular season wins in franchise history, passing the previous mark of 22.
- The Liberty needed just 22 games to surpass its win total (15) from a year ago.
- The Liberty has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2002.
- The Liberty posted a five-game winning streak during the month of July, its longest stretch of consecutive wins since 2010.
- The 2010 season was also the last time New York won three-straight games on the road.
- New York swept the season series with Phoenix for the first time since 2012, both games from Los Angeles for the first time since 2010, and went 2-0 against Minnesota for the first time since 2007.
- The Liberty is 10-2 against the Western Conference this season.
- New York is 12-4 at Madison Square Garden and owns the league’s best road record at 11-5.
LAST TIME OUT – NEW YORK 74, CONNECTICUT 64
- New York clinches home court advantage throughout the WNBA Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
- The Liberty picked up its franchise-record 23rd win of the season, breaking the previous mark of 22 set during the 2010 season.
- New York sweeps Connecticut for just the second time in franchise history and first since 1999, when the franchise was in Orlando.
- Tina Charles becamse the 18th player in WNBA history to eclipse 2,000-career rebounds; she posted a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds and now has 3,400-career points and 2,011 rebounds.
- Epiphanny Prince posted her fifth 20-plus point game of the season, leading all scorers with 25 points.
- Prince and Kiah Stokes were presented with their WNBA Eastern Conference Player and Rookie of the Month for August awards prior to the game.
- New York improved to 12-4 at Madison Square Garden.
TINA CHARLES 3K – 2K
With her 12th double-double of the season to the tune of 16 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Connecticut on Sept. 9, Tina Charles also eclipsed 2,000-career rebounds, becoming just the 18th player in WNBA history to do so. Earlier this season, she passed 3,000 points. Over just six WNBA seasons, Charles already ranks as one of the most prolific rebounders in league history, with her career-average of 10.2 rebounds per game ranking first all-time. This year, she is averaging 8.8 rebounds per game, which is second-best in the WNBA.
NEW YORK SIGNS GUARD ERICA WHEELER FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON
The New York Liberty signed guard Erica Wheeler to a rest of season contract on September 7. New York used the roster hardship provision to add Wheeler, after rookie point guard Brittany Boyd underwent surgery to repair a fractured wrist. Wheeler is in her first year in the league, after graduating from Rutgers University in 2013. During the 2015 preseason, she signed a Training Camp contract with the Atlanta Dream, and appeared in 17 games averaging 4.5 points and 1.5 assists per game. A former Rutgers University standout, Wheeler scored 1,027-career points for the Scarlet Knights, and graduated ranked third in program history in 3-point field goals with 157.