NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 8, 2015 – The New York Liberty heads into the final week of the regular season with many goals, but none more important than clinching home court advantage throughout the WNBA Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That is what will be on the line when the Liberty hosts the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
New York’s magic number to clinch home court is just one with three games to play. Thanks to its season sweep of the Minnesota Lynx, even if the two teams should end up with identical records, home court would be awarded to the Liberty.
It has already been an historic season for one of the WNBA’s original franchises. At 22-9 overall, New York has tied the franchise record for wins, set in 2010, and has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2002.
While entering the postseason as a top seed is no guarantee for success, the Liberty would like to see a majority of its postseason games played at Madison Square Garden where it is 11-4 so far this year.
New York has already won the season series with Wednesday night’s opponent, the Connecticut Sun, taking all three meetings this year. However, two of those matchups came down to the wire, including the only other game in the season series at Madison Square Garden, which required a lockdown defensive effort in the fourth quarter, featuring five of Kiah Stokes’ franchise record eight blocked shots.
At 14-18 the Sun have been eliminated from postseason contention, and have been severely hampered by injuries. All-Star guard Alex Bentley has been out since Aug. 21, with an ankle injury, and Elizabeth Williams has sat 10 games with a knee injury. Despite that, Connecticut has won 2-of-3, including a 72-68 win at Chicago on Aug. 30.
New York is dealing with a significant injury of its own, with rookie point guard Brittany Boyd expected to miss 5-6 weeks due to a fractured wrist suffered against Chicago last Thursday. As a result, the Liberty signed guard Erica Wheeler to a rest of season deal on Tuesday. She played the first 17 games of the season with the Atlanta Dream.
In three meetings with Connecticut, the Liberty has won by an average margin of 11.0 ppg. Tina Charles has been especially devastating against the Sun, averaging 22.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting 65.1 percent from the field.
LIBERTY CLINCHES BEST RECORD IN THE EAST FOR 1ST TIME SINCE 2002
With its 75-71 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sept. 6, New York improved to 22-9 overall and in doing so clinched the No. 1 overall record in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2002. It is the third time New York has finished first in the conference as a franchise. The Liberty now sits just one win shy of securing home court throughout the WNBA Playoffs, something the franchise has never done in its history. Additionally, the 22 wins tie the most in team history, matching the 2010 squad, which finished the season at 22-12 overall and in second place in the conference.
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.
LAST TIME OUT – NEW YORK 75, MINNESOTA 71
- First win at Minnesota for the Liberty since 2011
- First time New York sweeps Minnesota since 2007.
- New York has not lost a game all season when leading by at least six points at any point in the game.
- The Liberty is now 18-0 when leading to start the fourth quarter.
- One game after New York failed to hit a three it had seven from six different players in the win.
- Tina Charles had her 11th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds and now has 108 in her career.
- Charles hit a 3-pointer, her first of the year and second of her career. Her last three came in 2012.
- Tanisha Wright scored a season-high 16 points with seven assists.
- Swin Cash dished out a season-best seven assists in 17 minutes.
EPIPHANNY PRINCE NAMED EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE MONTH FOR AUGUST
Epiphanny Prince was named the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the first time in her career on Sept. 3. For the Liberty, it has repeat Player of the Month winners after Tina Charles received the honor for the month of July. The two-time All-Star helped guide the Liberty to a league-best 8-2 record for the month. She paced all Eastern Conference players in steals (2.6 spg) in August, tied for second in assists (4.2 apg), and ranked fifth in scoring (17.8 ppg). She also finished fourth in field goal percentage (.527, 68-of-129) and free throw shooting (.939, 31-of-33). Prince scored 15 points or more in seven of 10 games for the month, including three consecutive outings with at least 22 points. She tallied a season-high 30 points and added five assists in a 77-63 victory at the Chicago Sky on Aug. 7.
LIBERTY SEASON HEADLINES
- New York currently sits at 22-9 overall, tying the most regular season wins in franchis history.
- The Liberty needed just 22 games to surpass its win total (15) from a year ago.
- The Liberty has clinched the No. 2 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 11-4 at Madison Square Garden and owns the league’s best road record at 11-5.
BRITTANY BOYD UNDERGOES WRIST SURGERY
New York Liberty rookie guard Brittany Boyd successfully underwent surgery on her left wrist. The procedure, which was performed by Dr. Richard Hotchkiss at Hospital for Special Surgery, repaired a fracture which she suffered during the third quarter of the Liberty’s game against the Chicago Sky on September 3. Expected recovery time is 5-6 weeks.
PROTECTING A LEAD
The Liberty has been expert at protecting almost any lead this season. If New York has taken a seven-point lead over any opponent at any point in the game, it has gone on to win every time. The Liberty’s largest blown lead of the year is just six points, which came against Washington back on June 14. Additionally, New York is undefeated when out front heading into the final quarter, posting an 18-0 mark.
NEED FOR PROTECTING THE ROCK
Taking care of the basketball is critical for every team, but the Liberty has proven wins and losses can often hinge on the turnover battle. New York is 12-2 this season when it commits fewer turnovers and is 13-3 when it scores more points off turnovers. The Liberty ranks just 10th in the league in turnovers, averaging 14.7 per game, due in large part to its tough start to the year. Through the first eight games of the season, New York turned the ball over 18.5 times per game, posting a 4-4 record during that stretch. Since then, the Liberty is turning the ball over just 13.4 times per game, and is 18-5.