NEW YORK CITY - Minutes after the New York Liberty defeated Indiana on Sunday, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer entered the Garden media room.
After commenting positively on the size of the media turnout, Laimbeer admitted a big difference in the 73-61 victory was the Fever resting three starters: Tamika Catchings, Briann January and Erlana Larkins. Laimbeer otherwise attributed the outcome to better preparation and coming out with energy. He also observed his club, "making some buckets early." Those 'buckets' allowed the Liberty to build an early lead they never lost. It also touched on a key issue throughout the season: scoring.
Laimbeer kept returning to the idea of ‘every possession counts'. Many times the defense was up to task but the offense fell short. Getting a stop on a possession is crucial; if you come up empty on the ensuing offensive possession, what is gained?
"We need scorers," the coach admitted.
Entering the game Tina Charles (17.8) and Cappie Pondexter (13.4) were the only Liberty players in double figure scoring per outing. Even Pondexter, with two scoreless games, tailed off a bit.
"You need four scorers," Laimbeer said. "If one or two key players has an off night scoring, you have others able to step in and make the difference."
Laimbeer made no bones about saying the acquisition of a few scorers is an off season priority.
The frustrating thing about the whole season is the parity in the Eastern Division. It could have been taken or at least resulted in a second season for New York by addressing some of the team's weaknesses. The Liberty finished 15-19 while the playoff qualifying Fever finished a game better at 16-18.
Laimbeer cited a short training camp, a 3-10 start and a succession of early road games as contributors to the team's playoff demise. On closer look he admitted some poor halves, turnovers and not boxing out cost a few close, but winnable games, that ultimately sent the team packing at the regular season final buzzer.
Nevertheless, there were positives.
The play of Charles inside was impressive. The former UCONN star is a proven scorer, rebounder and worker. She started slowly but quickly found her way as a marquee player. Charles did an exemplary job of leading on and off the floor by her outstanding work ethic.
Swin Cash, a late addition, contributed in her 16.5 minutes per game. Laimbeer went as far to say, "if we had (Swin) Cash from the start we win the Eastern Division."
Anna Cruz did a solid job at the guard spot. The lead guard position was an uncertainty coming in but after seeing Cruz the first day of training camp, the staff knew they had their guard.
Still, the realization of what might have been permeated the Liberty locker room.
"I am disappointed," Pondexter said. "Not making the playoffs a second straight year stinks big time. I'm a competitor and want the playoffs."
In the afterglow of finishing with a victory Pondexter did emphasize, "I am really excited about next year."
That seemed to be the dominant theme from the staff on down the line: next year. The prospects of a new season and new direction. Along the way, you can be assured there will be a few new faces as well.