NEW YORK (AP) Cappie Pondexter and her New York Liberty teammates were tired of losing.
So the veteran guard led a spirited effort and the Liberty ended a five-game skid with an 85-78 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday.
Pondexter scored 23 points and had eight assists against the Eastern Conference leader.
”It’s great that we beat the top team in the east,” she said. ”I like having the ball in my hands whether it’s scoring or getting my teammates involved.”
With New York down 40-29 late in the second quarter, Pondexter took control of the game. She helped New York (4-10) to a 29-6 run over the next 10 minutes. Pondexter moved to more of a facilitator role on offense and the Liberty responded.
”She’s a solid lead guard when we put her in that position,” New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”Cappie’s into being a facilitator. You don’t see a stat like that with 23 points on eight shots and eight assists, too. That’s a monster game.”
New York led 58-46 with 2:23 left in the third quarter before Atlanta (9-4) rallied. The Dream, who had matched a franchise record with six straight wins, closed to 58-54 after three quarters.
The Liberty led by four early in the fourth before Pondexter hit a 3-pointer and a layup to make it 67-60 early in the fourth. They extended the advantage to 12 before Atlanta closed to 77-72 with 1:11 left on Angel McCoughtry’s layup.
Tina Charles hit a foul line jumper just before the shot clock expired to seal the win.
”Hopefully this will be the start of a roll for us,” Pondexter said. ”We have five straight home games to get back into this.”
McCoughtry led the Dream with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Sancho Lyttle had 13 points, seven rebounds and five steals for Atlanta.
”We’ll regroup and get back to winning again,” McCoughtry said. ”We relaxed a little bit when we built that lead and they jumped on us.”
The game was the second of a home-and-home set between the two Eastern Conference teams. The Dream won the game in Atlanta on Friday night by 19 points.
On Sunday, the Dream built their 40-29 lead late in the first half capped by consecutive baskets by McCoughtry. She finished the first half with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals. But then Pondexter got New York going as the Liberty scored the final nine points of the first half. Sugar Rodgers had five points during that burst and Pondexter ended the half with two free throws with just under a second left to make it 40-38.
New York kept it up in the third quarter. Leading 44-42, the Liberty scored 14 of the next 18 to take a 58-46 advantage. Alex Montgomery got it started with a 3-pointer and hit another 3 that made it 57-46 with 2:23 left in the period. Plenette Pierson added a free throw on the play.
Rodgers finished with 13 points while Montgomery and Charles each had 12.
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