NEWARK, NJ - It is a coaching cliché to some. Others live it as a time worn axiom.
"Offense is like the stock market, defense is a constant."
In very simple terms, your offense may get you great looks but if the rim is like the size of a tea cup, the defense will keep you in it.
In the New York Liberty's 75-68 overtime victory over the Indiana Fever, defense just didn't keep the Liberty in it. It brought them back in a thrilling matinee contest Wednesday at the Prudential Center.
"Our defense was the difference," said a hoarse coach Bill Laimbeer moments after the Liberty's second straight overtime victory. "We had the energy to get back. Our offense is still very much a work in progress but as the game went on we stopped penetration and forced Indiana to shoot from the outside."
The Fever enjoyed leads of as much as 16 points in the first half. Credit the duo of Tamika Catchings and Shavonte Zellous for doing much of the damage: the pair finished with 21 and 15 respective points. Following halftime they were not as effective, accounting for just 14 of their combined 36 points.
"We rotated defensively to key on them (Catchings and Zellous)," Laimbeer said. "And we were adamant about not letting them (Indiana) drive on us.
The Liberty offense again was prone to mistakes with 21 turnovers. The offense did have some positives of note:
- Essence Carson, a team-high 21 point scorer: "Essence is playing with so much more confidence," Laimbeer said. "She always defended but her offense is much improved. She is shooting well from the outside and taking it to the basket."
- Alex Montgomery: "Alex had a lot of energy for us and plays to her strengths," Laimbeer said. Montgomery scored 13 points, including a few crucial field goals in the extra session, while grabbing seven rebounds. Asked about her strengths, Montgomery interestingly noted the energy, Laimbeer alluded to as well as ," defense and rebounding. Plus the ability to play the two or three position."
- Getting to the charity stripe: The Liberty attempted 26 free throws (Indiana had 14) an admirable sign that the offense is getting players in position to make plays and/or draw fouls.
"We are trying to find ourselves offensively," said Cappie Pondexter, a 17-point scorer for the Liberty in yesterday's game. "We make a good showing on offense at times and we got a big lift from Alex (Montgomery)."
Pondexter also noted that the defense is paramount.
"Defense is something we will rely on a lot this year," she said. "I would say 70 percent of our practices are emphasizing defense and defensive shell drills."
Drills, techniques and the like aside, Laimbeer calls the defense 'hard nosed'. It appears to be a staple defining a Liberty team winners two of their first three. This weekend two contests with Atlanta are on tap. On the road Friday, home Sunday. The season is still in its early stages, yet Laimbeer and his club knows the significance of those next two games.