NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 – The New York Liberty used a combination of clutch shooting and strong defensive stands to hold off the Washington Mystics 79-74 on Tuesday night and advance to the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.
The Liberty will be right back to work tomorrow night when it hosts the Indiana Fever in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
Locked in a back-and-forth battle throughout the night, particularly in the fourth quarter, New York made the plays it needed to in order to come away with the franchise’s biggest win in five seasons.
Down by one with under a minute to play, Sugar Rodgers, who was spectacular all night, coming off the bench to finish with 20 points on 10-of-10 shooting at the line, carved her way through the Washington front line only to dish off to Kiah Stokes, who finished strong to put the Liberty in front.
On the ensuing Mystics possession Rodgers came up big yet again, swiping the ball away from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt then getting to the basket for two to push the lead to three.
Ivory Latta would make two at the line to make it a one point game yet again, and then Epiphanny Prince came up with the dagger.
Prince had been struggling from the field, just 1-of-11 before nailing the biggest shot of the night. Off a broken play she drained a 14-foot fadeaway late in the shot clock to make it 77-74.
Out of a timeout the Mystcis drew up a 3-point attempt for Latta. She had the big shot late in the fourth quarter to force overtime in game one last week, but this time she would not be able to convert as Stokes came out to challenge and block the shot. Tanisha Wright secured the rebound and the Liberty would go on to ice the game at the line.
Tina Charles scored a game-high 22 points for a third-straight game, also grabbing 12 rebounds to lead New York.
The Liberty bench came up huge yet again. In addition to Rodgers’ performance, Candice Wiggins was on fire from 3-point range, where she shot 4-of-4 to finish with 12 points, and Stokes had eight points, a game-high 13 rebounds, and a couple of blocks.
New York overcame a sluggish start on both ends of the floor to come away with a win. In fact, the Liberty trailed by 12 in the first half, making that the largest deficit overcome by the team in any game this season.
Washington was able to build that double-digit lead with red hot shooting from the outside. The Mystics shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range in the first quarter, 3-of-4 attempts.
The second quarter was an entirely different story. New York outscored Washington 30-12 in the period, using a 12-0 run capped off by a Rodgers layup to take its first lead of the game, 28-27. She scored 14 of her 20 points in the second quarter, nailing a pair of 3-pointers. Wiggins added two more threes as the Liberty managed to take a 45-37 lead into the locker room.
Washington started the second half as strong as the first, using a 14-2 spurt to take a 51-47 lead. Again the Liberty found some stability, and it came from the 3-ball. Wiggins nailed two more triples in the final two minutes of the period to knot the score heading into what turned into a roller coaster fourth quarter.
New York Liberty Postgame Notes
- The New York Liberty advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010 and eighth time in franchise history.
- The Liberty is now 6-2 all-time against the Mystics in the WNBA Playoffs.
- Tina Charles scored 22 points in all three games of the series.
- Sugar Rodgers set a New York Liberty playoff record with 10 made free throws.
- Candice Wiggins came off the bench to score 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
- The Mystics hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter then did not make another three until the fourth.
- The New York bench outscored Washington’s 40-19 and the Liberty bench outscored its starters 40-39.
- New York and Indiana will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time; their four prior playoff meetings were all in the semifinal round.