NEW YORK LIBERTY (7-7) @ SEATTLE STORM (7-8)
Thursday, July 6 • Seattle, Wash. (KeyArena) • 10:00 PM (ET)
In a matchup that could feature WNBA Playoff seeding ramifications at the end of the year, the season series is up for grabs when the New York Liberty visit the Seattle Storm on Thursday night. Both teams have protected home court through the 1st two meetings of the season in a pair of closely contested matchups. Grabbing a win and the tiebreaker could be of vital importance, as just one game currently separates 4th and 10th in the league standings.
• The New York Liberty lost its 3rd game in a row, suffering an 81-72 setback at Atlanta on Sunday night. Tina Charles led the way for New York, posting 21 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but the Liberty was never able to come all the way back from a 20-point deficit. Twice in the 4th quarter New York was able to pull back within 6 points, but was never any closer down the stretch.
• After missing one game due to a lower back injury, Sugar Rodgers returned to the lineup on Sunday against the Dream. She came off the bench to finish with 11 points, all coming in the 4th quarter, connecting on 3-straight 3-point attempts.
• Epiphanny Prince, making a 2nd-straight start at the 1 after missing 6 games to compete in the EuroBasket Women Tournament matched her career-high of 9 assists against the Dream on Sunday. She leads the Liberty with 4.3 apg, which would rank 11th in the league if she had enough games played to qualify for the league rankings.
• Kia Vaughn scored in double figures for the 1st time this season, finishing with 10 points to go along with 8 rebounds against the Dream. Over the past 2 games she is averaging 8.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Whenever the Liberty and Storm get together it seems like all eyes are on Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart. Last time these two teams met both finished with a double-double and entering Thursday night, they are both playing at an extremely high level. Over the past five games, Stewart is averaging 21.2 ppg and 10.0 rpg, while shooting .557 from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. Over the same stretch for the Liberty, Charles is averaging 18.2 ppg and 8.2 rpg, with 2 blocks per contest.
New York evened the season series with the Storm by picking up a 94-86 victory on June 11 at Madison Square Garden, a back and forth game that had 9 ties and 11 lead changes, the Liberty put up 29 points in the final quarter to secure the win. Sugar Rodgers and Tina Charles each finished with 21 points, as six players scored in double figures for New York. Breanna Steward posted a 23 point, 10 rebound double-double to pace the Storm, but she fouled out in the 4th quarter.
CHARLES 2ND, RODGERS 4TH IN EAST FOR EARLY ALL-START 2017 FAN VOTE RETURNS
Liberty center Tina Charles (12,055) and guard Sugar Rodgers (3,480) rank 2nd and 4th at their respective positions in the Eastern Conference after two weeks of fan voting in the WNBA All-Star Voting 2017 presented by Verizon. The first 15 days of fan voting generated more than double the amount of votes cast (376,820) compared to the same period, in 2015 (180,762). All-Star voting concludes on Thursday, July 6 at 9 p.m. ET. Starters will be announced live on ESPN on Tuesday, July 11. The All-Star reserves, who will be selected by the Eastern and Western Conference head coaches, respectively, will be announced on Tuesday, July 18.
GETTING TO THE POINT
When the LIberty lost point guard Brittany Boyd for the season there was a question of who would step into that role. Now that Epiphanny Prince has returned from competing in the EuroBasket Women Tournament she has gone back to starting at the point guard position, and is excelling at setting up her teammates, evidenced by her matching a career-high with 9 assists against Atlanta on July 2. She has three games with 5 or more assists this season and her 4.3 apg would rank 11th in the WNBA if she had enough games played to qualify.
THE STARTING BLOCK
To start the season, New York thrived at starting hot out of the gate, often building commanding leads in the 1st half, but that trend has waned over the past several weeks. Over the 1st 9 games of the year, New York averaged 42.8 points in the 1st half of play, topping 40 points in 8-of-9 games. Over the past 5 games, New York is averaging just 33.0 points in the 1st half, with only one game crossing the 40-point threshold. Slow starts in the 1st quarter have been particularly troubling, with the Liberty scoring fewer than 20 1st quarter points in 4 of its last 5 games.
After missing a game due to a back injury, Sugar Rodgers returned to the lineup against Atlanta on July 2. She came off the bench and finished with 11 points, all of which came during the 4th quarter, including a stretch where she connected on 3-straight 3-point attempts. She currently leads the Liberty with 32 3-pointers this season and ranks 3rd on the team averaging 13.2 ppg.
ENTIRE LIBERTY TEAM WINS WNBA COMMUNITY ASSIST AWARD
The New York Liberty was awarded the May WNBA Community Assist Award presented by State Farm for its efforts to make an impact in the communities across New York City and New Jersey during its 2017 Season Launch presented by Tackle Kids Cancer at Hackensack University Medical Center, a partner organization of the Garden of Dreams Foundation. The Liberty set up seven community events for the players and coaches based off their personal interests, points of passion and where they wanted to make an impact individually. The entire team and coaching staff attended all seven events, which included activations such as chess lessons, basketball clinics, an empowerment panel and serving meals to the homeless. In recognition of the New York Liberty’s efforts, the WNBA and State Farm will make a $5,000 donation to be split between the Garden of Dreams Foundation and Tackle Kids Cancer.