It was a historic afternoon in the Mecca of basketball, as Becky Hammon was honored at halftime of the game, which saw the New York Liberty defeat the Seattle Storm 78-62 in front of 10,682 fans at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The two teams battled each other in a game that saw both clubs play each other nearly dead even for three of the four quarters
The game started with the Storm opening a 6-2 lead before 3 minutes had elapsed, only to see the Liberty answer with a 9-0 run of their own to go up 11-6.
The remainder of the period belonged to Seattle, as the Storm used a balanced attack, that included eight assists on 10 made field goals, and 59% to pull even with New York at 23-23 at the end of one.
In the second, both teams worked to clamp down on defense with neither able to gain a significant edge as the Liberty would take just a 36-35 edge into the locker room.
Third period New York used an utterly dominant performance on both ends of the court to put the game out of reach.
"(We) understood that if we turned up our intensity level that we were going to be more successful than we were in the first half," said Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer. "(We) came out of the locker room with a 13-0 run and basically put the game away at that point."
The Liberty run lasted the first 4:47 seconds of the period. It was only then that Sue Bird stopped the bleeding by nailing a three.
The basket gave Bird 5,001 career points making her the first player in WNBA history to record 5,000+ points and 2,000+ assists. In a simple twist of fate, Bird's three came over the outstretched arms of her college team and roommate as well as her former Storm and USA teammate Swin Cash.
In total, Seattle would manage to score just nine points in the quarter while New York, put 24 points on the board.
In the fourth, the Storm would use a lighting quick attack to cut the lead from 16 to eight before 90 seconds had elapsed in the period. It would prove to be the closest Seattle would get as the Liberty again answered with a run of their own and cruised to their eighth win in the past 10 games.
"This is a good team we played against, and I don't think we played particularly well," said Bird of the loss. "There are other games like against Connecticut where we also played a good team, but we played well, and we had a chance to win.
"It's those games that at the end of the year, when it starts to get closer to playoffs, we will regret not taking care of business."
New York was led by the monster performance of Tina Charles, who finished with 29 points and eight rebounds. Essence Carson and Epiphany Prince both contributed 11 with Prince adding five assists. Candace Wiggins also had a solid game with 10 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Seattle was paced by the 14 points of Bird and also received 12 points from Crystal Langhorne. Angel Goodrich came off the bench and provided five points, four rebounds, and a game-high seven assists in 21 minutes.