NEWARK NJ - A team experiencing nearly a week layoff between games can experience one of two things.
There can be a staleness and loss of timing and competitive edge built from weeks of practices spiced by regular competition. The other thing that transpires is a group ‘getting their legs', sharpening up and improving on the things needing attention during the daily practices.
The New York Liberty were beneficiaries of the latter scenario. The Liberty, six days from a home loss to Atlanta, stopped the Seattle Storm five game win streak 77-59 at the Prudential Center on Saturday.Early in the game it appeared the Liberty were the ones out of rhythm. They were looking at an 8-2 early deficit. Turnovers dominated their first few possessions and one of their shot attempts saw Essence Carson throw an air ball on a 17 foot attempt from the right corner. The saving grace was the defense.
They kept the Storm in range and produced the necessary stops while the offense slowly got on track. The Liberty led 13-12 at the quarter. The second quarter saw New York build a lead stretching to eight at intermission. The offense started to click while the defense did the job. The two worked hand in hand.
"We got 12 steals on the game," Liberty coach John Whisenant pointed out. "That's big for us because steals give us transition baskets and secondary break opportunities from the perimeter."
Defensively Whisenant was very pleased with the effort. They kept their goal of limiting the Storm to under 20 points a quarter. Except for the third when Seattle scored 25. They made no ground tough as New York matched that scoring output on the offensive end.
"I think we played great defense today," Liberty forward Essence Carson said. "We rebounded better today. We got the chance to get back to practice this week and fine tune things offensively and defensively."
There were no excuses from Whisenant nor his players about a hectic early season schedule that saw games punctuated by little time for practice. This past week gave the Liberty six days to prepare for the Storm. More important to work on individual and team skills that needed shoring up.
The work paid off. Kara Braxton had another solid effort. When Kia Vaughn went out with a concussion in the second quarter, Braxton and DeMya Walker did a nice job neutralizing the size of the Storm. Walker scored 11 points, Braxton added seven and both grabbed six rebounds. Braxton has improved gradually and been effective as of late.
Carson led all scorers with 22 points. Cappie Pondexter added 20 points.
Ann Wauters scored 10 points adding six rebounds for the Storm. Wauters found the Liberty defense a difficult presence and had to work extremely hard for everything. Sue Bird of Seattle was limited to 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting as the Liberty improved to 5-9 with Seattle now 6-8.
No ‘trick' plays or gimmicks. It all came down to solid basketball spelling the difference for the Liberty. Solid basketball originating on the defensive end.
"Our defense can always improve," Carson said, "but today it gave a big lift for us."