NEW YORK (AP) It wasn’t long ago that the New York Liberty were languishing in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Now after a successful five-game homestand that saw the team win four games, the Liberty (7-11) are in the thick of it – 1 1/2 games out of second place.
”We really dug ourselves in a hole but have been slowly climbing out of it,” guard Cappie Pondexter said. ”We expect to win at home, but we really need to carry this over to the road.”
The Liberty are trying to make the playoffs after failing to qualify for the postseason last year. New York has struggled away from Madison Square Garden this season, losing seven of its eight games. The Liberty play at San Antonio on Wednesday before finishing up their pre-All Star game schedule with two more home games.
”It’s time for us to stand up on the road,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”We’ve been competitive. Now it’s time for us to win on the road. If we are going to get to the playoffs we have to get some road wins.”
It doesn’t get easy for New York in the second half of the season with eight of their 13 games after the All-Star break on the road, including a three-game Western trip to start. Still beating the defending champion Minnesota Lynx definitely gives New York some confidence. The current three-game winning streak is in no small part due to the play of center Tina Charles, acquired in a draft night deal from Connecticut.
”She’s starting to realize her responsibility on this team,” Laimbeer said. ”Early in the season, as a new person coming in, all of the pressure was on her. She struggled a little bit to understand, not only her role, but also her leadership with the ball club. She’s very comfortable right now with who this team is and what her responsibilities are both on and off the court. It is showing in her quality of play.”
New York sent Kelsey Bone, this year’s first round pick and next year’s as well to Connecticut for Charles, mortgaging the future to win now. The trade is finally starting to pay dividends.
Charles followed up a 28-point effort in a win over Tulsa with a career-high 32-point game against Minnesota on Sunday.
”We’re starting to play better and I’m being more aggressive doing what my team needs,” Charles said.
Charles has been getting the Liberty going early. She had 24 points in the first half on Sunday and she also had 20 in the opening 20 minutes against Tulsa on Tuesday.
”I’ve seen her do that many times and once she gets going she’s tough to stop,” said Minnesota’s Maya Moore, who teammed with Charles to lead UConn to two national championships in college.
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