Liberty Set for Game Two of Eastern Conference Finals

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – SEPT. 26, 2015 – With a chance to earn a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line, the New York Liberty will face the Indiana Fever in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on ESPN.

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ALL-TIME POSTSEASON: Tied, 6-6
2015 SEASON: Indiana, 4-2
LAST MEETING: NYL 84, IND 67 (September 23, 2015)

For the Liberty, everything seemed to go right in a dominant 84-67 game one victory Wednesday. New York shot a season-best 56.5 percent from the field and was even sharper from 3-point range, where it buried 8-of-14 attempts.

The Liberty led by as many as 22 down the stretch, and saw impressive contributions coming from a number of players. Tina Charles had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Kiah Stokes led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and Epiphanny Prince and Sugar Rodgers both shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range to finish with 17 and 14 points respectively.

 

Now Indiana has its back against the wall, facing elimination at Bankers Life, where wins have historically been hard to come by for New York. The Liberty went 0-3 at Indiana this season and is 0-5 all-time on the road against Indiana in the playoffs.

However, there have been some near misses. In an 80-79 Fever victory back on Aug. 23, Prince had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but misfired on her final attempt. In the regular season finale on Sept. 13, New York led heading into the final quarter, but saw the Fever erase a seven-point deficit.

New York was locked in defensively in game one. All season, Indiana had hurt the Liberty from 3-point range, averaging more then seven 3-pointers per game in five meetings, but shot just 3-of-10 on Wednesday.

That efficient long range shooting helped Indiana find more offensive success against the WNBA’s best defensive team than anyone else. Through the regular season, Indiana was the only team in the league to score more than 80 points per game against New York, averaging 80.8, but finished with just 67 in game one.

While the Liberty can likely handle the Fever picking up its scoring from the outside, taking care of the basketball is likely to be another key to victory.

New York forced 16 turnovers in game, which led to 24 points the other way. The Liberty finished +18 in points off turnovers (24-6) improving to 14-2 when committing fewer turnovers and 16-3 when scoring more points off turnovers.

Tamika Catchings had just nine points on 4-of-9 shooting, while Shenise Johnson (12 points) was the only player in double figures for the Fever. That held true to a couple of regular season trends. Johnson averaged 10.8 ppg against New York, second for the Fever, while Catchings shot just .224 from the field and ranked sixth against the Liberty with 8.8 ppg, well below her team-leading season average of 13.1 ppg.

CHARLES THROWS  A COMPLETE GAME

Liberty All-Star Tina Charles had one of the most complete offensive games of her career in the Liberty’s game one win over Indiana, displaying why head coach Bill Laimbeer believes she can be the “best player in the world,” as she finished with 18 points, a career-best nine assists, and seven rebounds. If those stat tallies seem unique, they are, according to Elias only twice before has a player posted at least 18 points, 9 dimes and 7 rebounds in WNBA Playoff history, and not since Tamika Catchings in 2009:

Cynthia Cooper Houston vs. Los Angeles August 30, 1999 23 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists
Tamika Catchings Indiana at Phoenix October 1, 2009 19 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists
Tina Charles New York vs. Indiana September 23, 2015 18 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists

PRETTY GOOD FOR A ROOKIE
Kiah Stokes was nearly perfect in scoring a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Liberty’s game one win over Indiana. She bested her previous career-high of 13 points and had never made more than six field goals in a game. According to Elias, the last time a rookie led both teams outright in scoring during a Playoff game was Shavonte Zellous, when she posted 23 points for the Detroit Shock in a 72-56 win over Indiana on Sept. 23, 2009. Stokes’ college career high was 19 points, during her junior year.

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
Although it led the league in points allowed per game and defensive field goal percentage, the Liberty ranked just eighth during the regular season in scoring. That has been much different during the playoffs, with New York leading the WNBA’s eight playoff games averaging 83.0 ppg. The Liberty has scored at least 83 points in three of its four playoff contests, and in the only other reached 79. To put that in perspective, in 34 regular season games New York scored 83 or more points five times.

SUGAR RUSHAfter going 0-for-3 from the field and scoring just one point in the Liberty’s playoff opener, Sugar Rodgers has now scored in double figures in
3-straight games, averaging 16.3 ppg over that stretch. She came off the bench to finish with 14 points on 4-of-6 3-point shooting in the game one win over Indiana, and over her last three playoff games she is shooting 7-of-13 (.538) from 3-point range. Since breaking a 12-game stretch where she failed to reach double figures with 23 points against Atlanta on Sept. 1, Rodgers has been averaging 10.9 ppg and has reached double figures six times.

CHARLES PLAYING LIKE AN MVP
All-Star Tina Charles has led the Liberty into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010, and she is averaging 21.0 ppg, the fourth-best mark in the league during this year’s playoffs. Charles has imposed her will on opposing defenses all season long, but has taken her game to another level over the last two weeks.

  • In four postseason games she is shooting 37-of-85 (.435) and playing nearly 38 minutes a game.
  • Postseason success is not foreign to Charles, who in 11-career playoff games is averaging 18.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, which ranks 7th and 4th respectively for the postseason in WNBA history.
  • Her 66 points in the Washington series set a new Liberty playoff record, breaking the old series point total mark of 59, set by Tamika Whitmore in 2002 against the Indiana Fever.