NEW YORK LIBERTY (1-1) @ PHOENIX MERCURY (2-1)
Tuesday, May 23 • Phoenix, Ariz. (Talking Stick Resort Arena) • 10 PM (ET)
It is the 1st road trip of the season for the New York Liberty as the squad heads out west for a pair of games, starting on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Mercury at Talking Stick Resort Arena at 10 PM (ET). It is the 1st meeting between the two teams since Phoenix picked up a 101-94 win over the Liberty in the 2nd Round of the 2016 WNBA Playoffs last September. The Mercury will be without guard Diana Taurasi, who was suspended for the game after being assigned a flagrant 2 against San Antonio on Saturday.
• The Liberty split a pair of early season home games after falling 90-71 to the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday night at The Garden. New York had opened the 2017 season with a 73-64 win over San Antonio. Sugar Rodgers scored 19 of her game-high 20 points in the 1st half, when she was 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Point guard Brittany Boyd also finished in double figures with 16 points.
• The Liberty announced on Friday that Brittany Boyd suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in the 4th quarter against Minnesota. She is scheduled to undergo repair at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) on Monday, May 22.
• New York is in the midst of a stretch where 7-of-8 opponents qualified for the WNBA Playoffs last season. Phoenix, Tuesday night’s opponent, eliminated the Liberty in a single-game 2nd round matchup last September, 101-94 at The Garden. The Liberty has won the last two regular season meetings with the Mercury, and two in a row at Talking Stick Resort Arena dating back to 2015.
• So far this season New York is even with its opponents in points in the paint (28-28). That was a big part of last year’s success when the Liberty won just 3 times when being outscored in the painted area.
Once again two of the finest post players in the world will take center stage as Tina Charles battles with one of her U.S. National teammates Brittney Griner. Griner has been a force early in the season, ranking 2nd in the league in scoring at 23.3 ppg, including a career-high 32 points in a win over Indiana last week. Charles is looking to return to form after battling an illness when New York hosted Minnesota last Thursday. She poured in 31 points, one off tying her career-high, the last time New York played in Phoenix on July 1, 2016, a game the Liberty won 99-88.
Led by 30 points from Diana Taurasi, the Mercury picked up a 101-94 win over the Liberty in the 2nd Round of the WNBA Playoffs last season at Madison Square Garden. Tina Charles scored 19 points for New York while Epiphanny Prince chipped in 12.
BRITTANY BOYD INJURY UPDATE
The Liberty announced Friday that point guard Brittany Boyd underwent an MRI at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) which confirmed a torn left Achilles tendon, an injury suffered during the fourth quarter of the Liberty’s game against the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. She will undergo repair on May 22 at HSS by team physician Dr. Jo Hannafin.
PICKING UP THE PACE
Heading into the season head coach Bill Laimbeer stressed that he wanted to see the Liberty rank higher in pace of play, and to start the year New York has seen a slight uptick in its Offensive Pace, currently at 82.2 compared to 80.9 at the end of 2016. However, through the small sample size of two games New York is not scoring quite as efficiently as it did last season, averaging 94.1 points per 100 possessions compared to 100.3 for all of last season.
The Liberty has already established a big advantage over its opposition in fast break scoring, outscoring its foes 29-8 out on the break, averaging 14.5 ppg in fast break opportunities. Last year, New York averaged just 8.2 ppg in fast break scoring which ranked 10th in the league.
CONTROLLING THE PAINT
Establishing control in the painted area has been a big indicator in terms of wins and losses, particularly last year. In 2016, New York won just three games in which it was outscored in the paint, finishing the year with a 35.5-28.1 edge on average in the painted area. Early on this year, the Liberty is even with its two opponents, and fell to the Lynx after losing the paint battle 30-24.