Sun Sets on Liberty Playoff RunSeptember 30, 2012
Newark, NJ- Playoff basketball is always a downright grind and on Saturday night, as the New York Liberty hosted the Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, it wasn’t just a grind, it was ugly.
After suffering a loss in the opening game of the series, the Liberty went into this match in a must-win situation. For three and a half quarters, it looked as though New York would steal the victory, but 14-0 Sun run in the final five minutes of the game resulted in a 75-62 loss and 2-0 series sweep for Connecticut.
“I felt like we could beat them, but we have to play with such authority defensively that it’s hard for us to maintain that much for 40 minutes,” Liberty head coach John Whisenant said. “In the first half we had more energy. The Sun are a good team and we were not able to contain them.”
The Liberty looked to set the tone early on, jumping ahead on a 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the game. Defensively, New York appeared tighter, going after rebounds and picking off passes. With momentum in their favor, the lead quickly doubled to 12 points midway through the first quarter off a three-pointer from Nicole Powell. While the Sun finally got on the scoreboard after a pair of free throws from Asjha Jones, it still left them scoreless from the field until back-to-back buckets from Tina Charles late in the period.
Despite leading by as many as 16 in the second quarter, the Liberty saw the margin quickly evaporate as the Sun settled in offensively, utilizing an 8-0 run to cut the lead to two. The Liberty responded with their own run, as Powell, Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson combined for six straight points to pull momentum back in their favor as they went into the break up 33-27.
In a second half where the Sun were likely to have made adjustments, the Liberty pulled ahead by seven before Connecticut turned the tables with an 8-0 run, taking their first lead off a jump shot from Jones. With the score knotted at 47, both teams suddenly went cold from the field for a two-minute span until a jumper from Kia Vaughn gave the Liberty back the lead. A back and forth battle ensued in the closing minutes of the third quarter as New York headed into the final frame ahead by two.
With the clock ticking on their playoff lives, New York's struggled on the offensive end for the duration of the fourth quarter and trailed by four with 5:26 left to play. Ever the resilient team, the Liberty somehow found some momentum and regained the lead off a trey from Pondexter, followed by a hook shot from Plenette Pierson.
Again, the Sun responded and it resulted in a momentum swing during a four-point play from Kara Lawson putting them ahead by three. Feeding off that burst of energy, Connecticut continued to build its lead. As time wound down, the Liberty never recovered and headed into the sunset best known as the off-season.
Charles led all scorers, logging a playoff double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Jones added 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Lawson finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
Pondexter led all Liberty scorers with 20 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Kara Braxton was the only other New York player in double figures, contributing 10 points.
“It was a complicated game,” Pondexter said. “We started out very well, strong and with a lot of energy. Obviously the best team won and they made adjustments at halftime. I think the depth that they had wore on us.”
This playoff loss marks the second year in a row the Liberty were eliminated in the first round. While it’s never a good feeling to be swept in the playoffs, Pondexter said it best, “Life goes on and we’ll make improvements for next year.”