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New York Liberty Clinch Playoff Berth with Impressive Win over Minnesota Lynx

Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images

Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images

New York, NY – The showdown between number one and two –  a possible WNBA Finals preview was provided at Madison Square Garden.

The New York Liberty (19-8), won fairly handily over the Western Conference front runners, the Minnesota Lynx (19-10) by the score of  81-68.

In the process New York clinched its first playoff berth since 2012 – It is the 13th playoff appearance in Liberty history. They also opened a nearly three game lead in the Eastern Conference.

Credit for this win and key for future Liberty successes, are the twin scoring machines of point guard Epiphanny Prince, and WNBA All-Star forward Tina Charles.

The duo accounted for 40 of the 81 Liberty points.

Prince led the way with 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting. It’s that shooting touch to go along with her ability to penetrate defenses at any point that has given the New York offense a new dimension. “We were very excited. We wanted to treat this game like a playoff game,” Prince summarized, “We are number one in the East and they are number one in the West so we just wanted to come out and play hard with intensity and give it a good run.”

Liberty Head Coach, Bill Laimbeer is not surprised as he knows what he got when they acquired Prince in that trade for Cappie Pondexter in this past offseason.

“She’s patient. She can really see the floor,” Laimbeer pointed out, “You can’t underestimate her value to us. She plays some quality defensive minutes too.”

Tina Charles’s fade-away jumper and general aggressiveness was in prime display as she collected big numbers tallying 18 points and 11 boards along with 3 assists.

Those assists come on a variation of a play where Liberty guards and sometimes even forwards or centers pass to cutters on the fly – It’s become an effective play.

But the key to victories and veterans know this is what you establish in the beginning of games.

Tanisha Wright came out with the first points on a jumper off the dribble. She followed with a gritty drive that drew a foul and points. It set the tone. Swin Cash, another whose experience is displayed in many areas hit her first two shots and later on when the Lynx made their best runs, it was Cash, animated on the bench that verbally displayed the passion that reminded New York of the mission. They also shut down Maya Moore, scoreless in the first and finished the opening quarter up eleven. “They were scoring in the paint.” Moore explained, “The shots down low are easier to make and they were more determined to score in the paint.”

But Maya Moore, despite the absence of Seimone Augustus, out with a left foot sprain, drove them back by her proficient foul shooting and smooth shot with garnered her 14 second quarter points. Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, with 8 points and six boards in the first half cut into the large deficit but the Liberty got whatever they needed, whenever they needed it.

Carolyn Swords, always solid at the center grabbed a pass from Charles outside the key and buried it. The Liberty took a tentative 43-38 halftime lead. “It was a great challenge mentally and physically and we rose to the occasion which is always exciting.” Swords explained, “We are getting the hang of each other.”

The Liberty transition game is a thing of beauty and it’s sparked by the defensive rebound.

The New York players from forward to guard won that battle undisputedly. Kiah Stokes is back to her active self as she grabbed 11 rebounds, 8 of them on the defensive boards. Tina had the same numbers and Liberty guards like Brittney Boyd, Candice Wiggins, and Tanisha Wright, and even Prince helped win that department 32-21. The transition play that stood out was Epiphanny Prince steal and transition break that saw her run it deep to the lane before feeding Charles, who followed by faking out the defender with a return pass to Prince, who layed it up. But the best play was Prince hitting her rainbow three from deep in the right corner while fouled. Her four point play put her over for her fourth twenty point game of the season. Three quarters down and the Liberty led 60-49.

Candice Wiggins, on the floor more tonight was a force again, hitting a big three and setting up two with a speed burst into the paint, one of three assists on her night along with a defensive rebound. Wiggins is a major example of the type of talented depth the Liberty can match against any team, Minnesota included. “It’s important to do the little things, staying focused, paying attention to details, and we’re getting to that point where everyone understands where their value is.” Wiggins responded.

The playoff clincher, though downplayed throughout, served as justification for Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, who was on the outs and was brought back as Coach solely in the off-season. The direction for this team was well planned and the assembly of talent had great potential. But games are won on paper.  Laimbeer has to be commended for finally getting New York into the range of his original goals. “Yes, we made the playoffs but in the locker room we are like ‘Great! Let’s play tomorrow.’ We have more opportunities in front of us to get more wins.” Laimbeer reminded, “We have some business to take care of.”

The problem for the other WNBA teams is that the New York Liberty are getting the results and are still getting better. But New York is hungry for more and they are not satisfied with just making the playoffs. This more than anything is the attitude of a winning team, a championship team. “The sky is the limit for this team,” Essence Carson said, “It’s our first year together and we have a lot of new faces but we have great talent. Everyone can get done. People didn’t expect it this year but we expected it of ourselves.”


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