Coach Bill Laimbeer’s confidence going into a potential elimination game on the road appeared to rub off on the New York Liberty. That’s resulted in them bringing their Eastern Conference semifinal series back home and looking to move on to the next round.
The Liberty look to duplicate a very impressive Game 2 effort when they face the Washington Mystics in the decisive contest Tuesday night.
Tina Charles scored 17 of her 22 points in the third quarter and New York dominated throughout Sunday, winning 86-68 to rebound from a double-overtime home loss in the opener.
" … I just kept attacking, I was in a zone and I played like it was my last (game)," Charles said. "That’s all I kept saying, ‘We want to see Tuesday.”’
Laimbeer had expressed a sense of assuredness prior to the game that it would happen, reminding his club that it had the best road record in the league.
That was apparent Sunday, as the Liberty held a 33-24 advantage on the boards, shot 47.9 percent while holding Washington to 38.6 and recorded 12 steals.
”I thought we played focused,” said Laimbeer, named WNBA Coach of the Year last week. ”We played focused (in Game 2), unfortunately things just didn’t go our way. Tonight, we played a good, solid mental game.”
New York had four players score in double figures Sunday and the bench turned in an outstanding performance. Sugar Rodgers had 15 of the reserves’ 32 points.
Now it’s Washington that needs to regroup after failing to protect home court as it looks to make it out of the conference semifinals for the first time since 2002.
"Everybody has to stay confident," leading scorer Ivory Latta said. "You gotta be confident in yourself and your shot. We’re definitely gonna be fine but we just gotta move the ball and definitely take of the ball on the offensive end.
" … Everyone has to stay focused; we gotta lift each other up. It’s not the end of the road for us. We still got another chance of moving on and we’re gonna just continue to get better."
Washington committed 14 turnovers to New York’s six and went 12 of 18 from the free-throw line to 13 of 15 for the Liberty.
”You win playoff games with rebounding, turnovers and free throws and we lost two of those (categories) very badly,” coach Mike Thibault said.
New York might require a better defensive effort against Tayler Hill in order to close out the series. She led the Mystics with 19 points – six on 3-pointers – with five coming in the first half.
Latta turned in her second straight 15-point performance, going 3 of 6 from beyond the arc after hitting four of six 3s in Game 1.
If the Liberty advance for the first time since 2010, they’ll have a quick turnaround as the East finals would begin Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.