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Bill Laimbeer all smiles regarding Liberty's defense

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The New York Liberty won a hard fought game against the Los Angeles Sparks. Their were certain stats that really explained why the Liberty were victorious.

Photo by Ray Floriani

New York City - It wasn't easy. The victorious New York Liberty coaches and players didn't expect it to be. The Liberty defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 79-70 at Madison Square Garden. The Sunday afternoon meeting of East and West saw the Liberty improve to 5-4 while LA is now 0-7. The numbers of note:

Los Angeles

NY Liberty

Possessions

73

75

Offensive Efficiency

96

103

eFG

43

53

FT Rate

35

38

OREB Pct

21

16

Turnover Rate

14

12

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer has developed an intense pride in their defense: "You don't defend you don't play; that's our simple philosophy," Laimbeer said. The Liberty mentor likes to keep the opposition under 40% shooting from the floor.

The eFG percentage of the Sparks was aided by seven three-pointers. In raw field goal percentage, the Liberty did limit the opposing Sparks to 36.7% (22 of 60). Mission accomplished.

An even better indicator of defense was limiting LA to 96 offensive efficiency. Hold a team under the century mark in efficiency and your defense has done the job.

Deadliest of the three-point marksmen was Kristi Toliver of LA. The Maryland product shot 3 of 5 from downtown en route to a game-high 30 points. "Toliver shot well especially with those threes," Liberty forward Kiah Stokes said. "I think we did a good job shutting down the remainder of their team.

"(Jantel) Lavender (14 points) and Nneka ( Ogwumike 14 points, 16 boards) were  effective, but we neutralized them when we had to."

Laimbeer praised Stokes with "another excellent defensive game." The Liberty rookie had three defensive rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes. Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers paced the Liberty with 23 points.

"Three games does not a season make but in that stretch Sugar (Rodgers) has played well offensively," Laimbeer said. "We always knew she could defend as she does. We knew she could be very good on the offensive end as she has shown the last few games."

A significant reason for LA's 0-7 record is a lack of depth due to injuries. The Sparks are down to a rotation of eight players. "They have a few injuries, and it has been tough on Brian (coach Agler)," Laimbeer said. "They start games strong but run out of gas. We were determined to come at with the pressure on both ends of the floor the entire game."

In postgame interviews a writer remarked to Laimbeer, ‘32 points in the paint and 23 assists.' "It is what we want to do," the coach replied with a laugh. As Laimbeer noted, the ball movement was crisp and frequent. Four passes, three on the perimeter often found a wide open Rodgers in the corner. The Liberty assisted on 79% of their field goals.

Points in the paint are supplied by Tina Charles (16 on the afternoon) as well as the guards attacking in transition. In fact, Charles noted the Liberty defense often initiates the offense. "Forcing turnovers gives us the opportunity to get out in the open floor," Charles said. "We have the guards like Sugar (Rodgers) and Brittany (Boyd) who can get out and run."

Those open floor opportunities also benefit Charles in the low post. Often the Liberty orchestrators of the break will look inside, and if Charles has beaten her opponent for position, the ball goes inside.

Next up for New York is a date at Chicago. Not only a road game against an outstanding club with a defensive problem in Elena Delle Donne, the Sky have an added asset. "This will be tough because it is the first time Cappie Pondexter will face us," Charles said. "When you face your former team the first time there is added incentive.

I know when we faced Connecticut the first time after coming to the Liberty I had a little extra (incentive). That makes it tough, but it would be a nice road win to get."

Efficiency leaders:

Toliver, LA                          25

Rodgers, NY                       23

Ogwumike, LA                   21

Ogwumike shot only 2 of 12 from the field but was aided by 16 boards, 4 assists, and just a single turnover. Toliver shot 9 of 15 from the field and a perfect 9 of 9 on the charity stripe. Rodgers shot 7 of 14 from the floor with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and zero turnovers.