NEW YORK LIBERTY (2-3) vs. DALLAS WINGS (3-2)
Friday, June 2 • New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden) • 7:30 PM (ET)
The New York Liberty continues its 5-game home stand when it hosts the Dallas Wings at the Garden on Friday night at 7:30 PM. The Wings defeated Indiana 89-62 on Tuesday night to improve to 3-2, while the Liberty is coming off a 90-75 set back against Los Angeles. New York went 2-1 against the Wings last season, winning both matchups at Madison Square Garden. Tina Charles was particularly effective, averaging 27.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg in three meetings with the Wings, while Sugar Rodgers averaged 19.0 ppg and put in 3.7 3-pointers per game in matchups with Dallas.
• The Liberty opened a 5-game home stand with a 90-75 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night at The Garden. Tina Charles led three New York players in double figures, scoring 25 points, 19 of which came in the 1st half. Epiphanny Prince finished with 21 and Sugar Rodgers added 13. The Liberty trailed by 2 heading into the 4th quarter when the Sparks opened the period on an 11-0 run to take control of the game.
• Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn have left the team in order to fulfill national team duties with Russia and the Czech Republic respectively for the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket Women Tournament in the Czech Republic. Both are expected to miss approximately 6-7 games beginning with the Dallas game on June 2.
• New York has re-signed 2017 2nd Round (14th Overall) draft pick Lindsay Allen out of Notre Dame. Allen was with the Liberty through all of training camp and appeared in all 3 preseason games.
• Averaging 2.8 3-pointers per game, Sugar Rodgers is leading the WNBA with 14 made 3-pointers this season and is currently ahead of her Liberty single-season record setting pace from a year ago when she finished with 86 3-pointers.
Karima Christmas-Kelly has had some success against the Liberty, including scoring a team-high 23 points in a in win last season; she averaged 18.7 ppg in three meetings with New York last year. Shavonte Zellous has been one of the Liberty’s top defenders all season, with opponents scoring just 66.9 points per 40 possessions when she is on the floor. Zellous is coming off a game where she did a little bit of everything for New York, scoring 4 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists against Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Trailing 80-70 with fewer than 4 minutes to play, the Liberty nearly completed a big 4th quarter comeback at Dallas on Sept. 11 last season, before ultimately falling 84-81. New York had already clinched the WNBA No. 3 seed in the late season matchup that saw Tina Charles post 29 points and 10 rebounds. Karima Christmas scored 23 points to lead the Wings.
NATIONAL TEAM DUTY
Beginning with Friday night’s game against Dallas, the New York Liberty will be without a pair of players in Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn, who will be fulfilling European National Team duty for the 2017 Eurobasket Women FIBA World Championship qualifying tournament. Prince will be competing for the Russian National Team while Vaughn will be playing for the EuroBasket host nation of the Czech Republic. The 16-team international tournament begins with group play on June 16 and runs through June 25.
LIBERTY RE-SIGNS LINDSAY ALLEN
The Liberty re-signed rookie point guard Lindsay Allen on May 31 after placing Kia Vaughn on the temporary suspension list due to her traveling to Europe to compete for the Czech Republic national team for the 2017 EuroBasket Women Tournament. Allen, whom the Liberty selected in the 2nd Round (14th Overall) of the 2017 WNBA Draft, rejoins the team after being waived prior to the start of the regular season. She appeared in three preseason games for the Liberty, averaging 3.0 points and 2.0 assists per game. A product of the University of Notre Dame, Allen helped guide the Fighting Irish to a 139-10 record over her four years in South Bend, and graduated as the ACC’s all-time assist leader with 841, which ranks 22nd in NCAA history.
LOOKING FOR SOME HELP
Despite being one of the league’s most consistent offensive weapons and coming off a year where she led the WNBA in scoring, Tina Charles does not seem to be getting much benefit in terms of free throw attempts this season. She ranks 7th in the league in scoring, but is just 41st in free throw attempts per game at 2.8. Each of the 6 players ranked ahead of her in points per game are in the top-10 in free throw attempts, including taking up each of the top-5 spots. Last year, Charles finished 11th in free throw attempts per game at 4.8 and for her career she averages 4.1 FTA/game.
NET PLUS/MINUS LEADERS
Tina Charles and Shavonte Zellous find themselves amongst the league’s net plus/minus leaders this season, ranking 2nd and 4th in the WNBA respectively. Charles is +13 this year while Zellous is +18, but the net numbers tell the full story, mostly because of what they mean to the team’s defense. With Charles on the court, teams average 73.7 pts/40, but that number jumps to 89.1 when she is gone. For Zellous, opponents score just 66.9 pts/40, one of the lowest rates in the league, compared to 92.1 when she is on the bench.
After the Los Angeles game on Tuesday, head coach Bill Laimbeer said it will be up to every player and coach to step up to make up for the absence of Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn. That onus will particularly fall on the Liberty’s 2nd unit, where New York is currently averaging 16.4 bench points per game, which ranks 12th overall. Last year, the Liberty finished 4th in the WNBA, averaging 28.2 bench points per contest.