New York, NY -- It has become clear that the New York Liberty like to put on a show for its home crowd and by show I mean keep the fans on the edge of their seats.
After a loss in Minnesota on Friday, the return home was much needed for a lethargic Liberty roster. New York hosted the Connecticut Sun in a matinee at The Garden on Sunday that ended 83-76 in the Liberty's favor.
"We're tired. We didn't have the energy tonight necessary to give us a solid game," said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer.
Alyssa Thomas got things going quickly, putting up the first points of the game within the first 30 seconds. The Sun's early lead didn't last long, as Sugar Rodgers cutting layup was the equalizer, tying the game at two apiece.
Turnovers were the epitome of the first half for the Liberty and Swin Cash had two in a row early in the first quarter. Connecticut couldn't optimize on the first opportunity, but ended up taking advantage of eight for 12 points.
Tanisha Wright registered six points in the first half, but all of them were in big moments. She fired off a long jumper to inch closer to the Sun's 9-6 lead.
Then it was Rodgers again, this time with a long jump shot from 23 feet deep, to tie the game up at nine. She went on to score 14 points.
Midway through the quarter, Shavonte Zellous subbed in for Cash and made the most of her minutes. Her jumper gave New York's offense some momentum.
"That's our goal. When we come in off the bench our job is to come in and bring that kind of spark," said Zellous.
Brittany Boyd went coast to coast to take a 19-15 lead with less than one minute to go in the first. Kiah Stokes then drove down the lane to put up the layup that advanced the Liberty's lead to 21-15.
The second quarter was where New York started to self-destruct, and Connecticut took full advantage of it. Shekinna Stricklen nailed a three off a bad pass by Boyd to make it a one-possession game at 24-21.
Ten turnovers for the Liberty halfway through the second and most of them were unforced.
Remember when I mentioned each of Wright's scoring opportunities were in big moments? Well, she did it again in the second, bringing New York back to life with the first field goal of the quarter for the Liberty with just over four minutes remaining in the half. Wright put up a total of eight points.
Cash followed it up with a long jumper to make it 31-28 Sun, but it wasn't enough for the rest of the offense, who could not score on back-to-back opportunities. New York had two defensive rebounds in a row and could not score.
A foul on Jasmine Thomas led her to sinking both free throws and pulling away with a 34-28 advantage.
Of course, when Tina Charles is needed, she comes in the clutch. She retaliated with two free throws of her own, a steal and two points to trail 34-32 with under a minute left in the half.
Charles went back to the free throw line and posted two more to tie the game up at 34.
After Chiney Ogwumike's layup, it was Charles again who tied the game at 36. With just 5.5 seconds left in the half, Connecticut was able to get off one last play, and Jasmine Thomas fired off a buzzer-beating jump shot from 16 feet out to head into halftime with a 38-36 lead.
Charles scored 14 points to Jasmine Thomas' 16.
It was a half the Liberty was not used to, tied for points in the paint at 14. Jonquel Jones and Carolyn Swords each scored their first points of the game in the third quarter's opening minutes.
Cash hit her eighth point of the game with a jumper, but had her third turnover of the game. It was Rodgers who hit a deep three for her 10th point of the game and put her team right back in it at 51-49.
After Alex Bentley had missed her driving layup, Stokes made both free throws to tie the game at 51, and Charles drove in a layup to regain control of the game 53-51, forcing Connecticut to call a timeout.
Within the first minutes of the fourth quarter, the Liberty started to take over on all sides. They were defending the boards and making their shots.
At the nine-minute mark, Boyd's layup was a slow roller around the rim, but she sunk it in and one to extend the Liberty's lead 61-53.
Stricklen came out of the timeout firing off a three that made it a one-point game.
Unlike the beginning of the game, New York stopped Connecticut's momentum before it could get going. After Stricklen's shot, Stokes drove in a layup, followed by a deep Boyd jump shot and gained an extra point off the foul, making it 68-66. Stricklen wasn't done, though. Her three-point shot and ninth point of the game erased the deficit to just one point.
Turnovers aside, Cash put on an excellent offensive performance registering 16 points with 10 in the second half alone. She ended up winning the game's Player of the Game.
Usually late into the fourth quarter, Laimbeer has to worry about his typically lethargic team. In Sunday's game, it was not the case. That could be attributed to the stellar performance by the Liberty's bench of late, who can provide the necessary breaks for the starters.
With a timeout called with 2:02 to go, the crowd at Madison Square Garden was ignited. It was 78-71, and the Sun had the ball in their possession.
Neither team was able to score in that minute, but with 1:06 remaining the fouling began. A foul on Ogwumike sent Stokes to the line, making one of the two, to build a 79-71 lead.
Camille Little made her two free throws, but Cash followed it up with a fadeaway jump shot.
Bentley hushed the crowd at The Garden with a three, but it was not enough, as the Liberty won yet another game at home 83-76.