Liberty host Wings in new venue in search of first win

The first game in the new venue did not provide a satisfying finish for the New York Liberty.

They hope their second game at their new home arena goes better Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Wings at the Westchester County Center.

The Liberty are 0-2 after dropping a 78-72 decision to the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Friday at the court in White Plains, located about 30 miles north of Madison Square Garden. It is their first 0-2 start since beginning the 2012 season with five straight losses.

New York is playing two games at the arena, which is configured to seat 2,319 fans and has an option to expand to the capacity to approximately 4,500. Last year, the Liberty averaged about 9,000 fans per game at Madison Square Garden.

In front of a sellout crowd, the Liberty squandered a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter and allowed a go-ahead 3-pointer by Maya Moore with 19.5 seconds remaining.

Tina Charles finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds in a game that featured 15 lead changes.

“We can keep getting better in all aspects,” first-year Liberty coach Katie Smith said after watching her team hold a four-point lead with 89 seconds remaining. “We’re going to continue to learn and to grow as a team.”

Among the improvements shown by the Liberty were in opponents’ shooting percentage. After allowing the Chicago Sky to shoot 47.6 percent in a four-point loss on May 20, the Liberty limited Minnesota to 39 percent.

“The excitement from being here and having them here to watch us play was amazing,” Smith said. “Even though it was a loss, we’re still going in the right direction and I can’t wait for us to lace up again on Tuesday.”

The Liberty played their second close loss without three guards in Brittany Boyd (Achilles), Sugar Rodgers (sore left knee) and Epiphanny Prince (concussion). Boyd and Prince do not have a timetable for their returns. Rodgers is day to day.

New York is expected to get Kia Vaughn back for Tuesday. Vaughn averaged 5.8 points last season and made 22 starts, but she missed the first two games fulfilling club commitments in Turkey.

Dallas is 2-2 after Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 10 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 78-70 win at Atlanta. Smith is fourth in the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game and tied for third with Seattle’s Sue Bird at 5.5 assists per game.

Dallas is 1-1 on its three-game trip and Saturday’s win followed a 76-68 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday. Diggins-Smith has made 9 of 30 shots on the trip so far.

Dallas has played three games without starting power forward Glory Johnson, who is out four weeks with a hamstring injury and is filling the position by starting Kayla Thornton. Thornton totaled 14 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes and will likely see the bulk of the minutes in place of Johnson while rookie Azura Stevens backs up with.

Also helping compensate for Johnson’s absence is center Liz Cambage who is averaging 16.8 points and 11 rebounds in her first four games back in the league after four seasons abroad.

“Just having her in the paint dramatically changes things for us defensively and I think we’re going to be a significantly better defensive team this year because of her,” Dallas team president Greg Bibb told the Dallas-Morning News last week.

The Liberty have won five of six meetings with the Wings since the team relocated from Tulsa after the 2015 season.