NEW YORK (AP) With the season winding down, every game is key to the New York Liberty’s chances of making the playoffs.
Tina Charles had 15 points and 14 rebounds to help the Liberty beat the Connecticut Sun 71-66 on Friday night, moving New York into third place in a tight Eastern Conference.
”We knew how important this game was,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”It’s not a death game but it was Game 5 or Game 6 in the world that I come from. You had to win this game to get yourself an advantage. We didn’t play well but at the same time we gutted it out.”
Avery Warley-Talbert added her own double-double with 11 points and 11 boards for New York (13-16), which hosts Indiana on Sunday. The Liberty are a half-game in front of the Fever and Chicago.
Katie Douglas scored 26 points to lead the Sun (11-20), who were missing rookie Chiney Ogwumike for a second straight game because of an abscessed tooth.
Douglas rallied the Sun from an eight-point halftime deficit to take a 45-44 lead midway through the third quarter.
Swin Cash’s jumper gave New York a 55-53 lead with 7:09 left in the game. She added two free throws 45 seconds later and New York never trailed again.
”Our heart was tested today there’s no question about that,” Laimbeer said. ”We got tested; we were down by two at the start of the fourth, I think. Down two, you had to look deep. Cappie (Pondexter) didn’t have her shot going tonight but all of a sudden she makes two of the biggest shots of the game in the last couple minutes.”
With the loss, Connecticut was pushed to the brink of elimination from the playoff chase.
”I’m disappointed that we didn’t come out with a better first half,” Douglas said. ”Not so much proud but I definitely liked our effort and fight in the second half. As professionals we have to do a better job coming out the gates.”
The Liberty won despite shooting 33 percent from the field because they made 31 of 37 free throws.