New York City, NY - The Liberty bounced back from Saturday's loss in Washington. Putting together a strong second half they defeated the Indiana Fever 86-79 at Madison Square Garden. Tina Charles led the way with 21 points as the Liberty improved to 2-1 while the Fever remain winless at 0-3. The numbers of note:
Possessions: Indiana 81, Liberty 79
Offensive efficiency: NY Liberty 109, Indiana 98
The Four Factors:
Pace. Bill Laimbeer blamed the loss at Washington on the Liberty getting drawn into a slower pace. "They got us out of our rhythm and I sat there, didn't adjust and take blame for that," Laimbeer said. In actuality the possessions were very close from the other contests:
Vs. Atlanta 83
Vs. Washington 79
Vs. Indiana 79
What differed was offensive efficiency. New York did not execute an effective offense in going down to defeat at the hands of the Mystics:
Liberty offensive efficiency:
Vs. Atlanta 99
Vs. Washington 79
Vs. Indiana 109
Rebounding is still a Laimbeer concern and is evidenced by Indiana winning the offensive rebounding battle. Overall, the Liberty mentor likes where his clubs stands especially with three straight home games on tap.
"Our defense is solid," Laimbeer said. "We are executing better and remember, we put a lot of sets in our last week of camp so the team really has responded to the changes well."
Post game the Liberty players were focused on the Cleveland-Golden State NBA playoff game, on the big screen in the locker room. Who are you rooting for Brittany Boyd was asked? "Cleveland, definitely," she replied.
A Northern Califorinia native who played at nearby Berkeley, California is not rooting for Golden State? "I'm a LeBron (James) fan," Boyd said. "I want him to bring Cleveland their first title."
Laimbeer praised the shot blocking of the Liberty's Kiah Stokes. The rookie out of UConn had three of the Liberty's seven rejections on the night. "One of her (Stokes) blocks tonight was sweet," Laimbeer said. "Must have wound up in the fifteenth row. Kiah (Stokes) gives us a shot blocking dimension we haven't had."
The 6-3 Stokes loves to play defense and about her shot blocking simply says "I like to do it." She credits jumping ability but also, "Timing. Shot blocking is timing and what helps in my situation is I have really long arms."
Defensively she realizes the guards up front can take a defensive gamble on occasion with the knowledge that she is anchoring the last line of defense in the paint. "I can see her (Stokes) among the WNBA shot blocking leaders all season," Laimbeer added.
Stokes added that she stays in touch with former UConn coaches and teammates. "Especially, Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) out in Seattle," Stokes said. "We stay in contact and talk about the adjustment as a rookie in the WNBA." To date Stokes' adjustment is progressing just fine.
Indiana guard Layshia Clarendon paced the Fever with a career-high 14 points. Post game we talked briefly about facing her former backcourt mate Brittany Boyd. Clarendon was informed, that a recent article noted Cal is the only Pac-12 team, with a draft pick three straight years.
Not even Stanford could make that claim. On hearing that Clarendon gave a thumbs up sign and said, "thank you Ray now let Jeanette (Pohlen from Stanford) know that." Teammates in the WNBA, the emotions of those college rivalries still run deep.
Indiana coach Stephanie White, in her first season leading the Fever, is trying to get her club on track. Regardless, she took a moment to comment on the Liberty. "They have that fight and competitive toughness which they get from Bill Laimbeer," she said.
Tina Charles is playing like a WNBA MVP. She's relentless and never takes a possession off. Stokes has been a great addition, I think she's tremendous. As a team they really compete."
Regarding her own team White said: "We play well for a half then struggle in the third quarter just like tonight. You have to put it all together. In this league you can't get away with any lulls or lapses. This league is too good and you saw that tonight."