— WNBA (@WNBA) June 20, 2018
Yet another New York Liberty game went down to the wire on Tuesday night, but thanks to Tina Charles and a strong fourth quarter, they came out clean on the other side this time around.
Charles put in 29 points, while Shavonte Zellous and Kia Nurse respectively added 13 and 11, and the Liberty earned a 79-72 win over the Atlanta Dream at the Westchester County Center.
The Liberty (4-6) got off to a quick defensive start, leading 17-6 after the first quarter and by as much as 16 in the opening half. In crunch time, they enjoyed some clutch performances and took the fourth quarter by a 29-23, overcoming a career-high 39 points from Dream guard Angel McCoughtry.
“I thought our defense was flying around. I think our defense gave us energy on the offensive end,” Head coach Katie Smith recalled. “It’s nice to have that. Obviously, McCoughtry was putting a little heat on us, but we were able to give ourselves a nice little cushion at the end.”
3rd Star: Kia Vaughn
Vaughn’s impact was felt most in the physical aspects of the game. Not only did she net nine rebounds, four of which led to second-chance points offensively, but she played the role of enforcer late in the game. After Kia Nurse went down on a hard foul by Jessica Breland, Vaughn quickly stood up for her teammate, getting in Breland’s face while White Plains cheered.
“That’s my teammate,” Vaughn said. “You’re not going to slam my teammate. That’s what you do, you step in for teammates.”
2nd Star: Brittany Boyd
Brittany Boyd (@adifferent1five) putting on a passing CLINIC in 4Q ?
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 20, 2018
It was a glass half full/empty type of night for Boyd. She didn’t tally a point, but that actually allowed her to break a team record previously held by Teresa Weatherspoon.
Boyd’s 11 assists, tallied in just 16 minutes, are the most by any player in New York history without a field goal, breaking the previous mark of 10 set up Weatherspoon in 1997 and 2000. It was a career-high in assists for Boyd, who picked up six helpers (as well as two steals) in the fourth quarter alone to help the Liberty pull away
“I just wanted to push the ball, get the ball up the court,” Boyd said of her night. “That lead was tempo. We’re a team that wants to play fast, get up and down the court and get as many easy buckets as possible.”
1st Star: Tina Charles
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 19, 2018
It was a complete recovery game for Charles, who overcame her performance on Saturday, her lowest scoring game of the season. After 17 first-half points, Charles rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, netting nine points to finish off with a team-high 29 (10-of-17). Smith noted that Charles’ effort spread to the rest of the team.
“The effort wasn’t really in our last game at Minnesota,” Smith said. “I thought, sure we made mistakes, but I thought the effort that we gave, every single person that came in the ballgame (gave) what’s needed every single night. I was really proud of the way they played tonight.”
How It Was Decided
The Liberty led by as much as 16 in the first half but, saw that lead evaporate in the third quarter with Atlanta tying the game at two points. However, a crucial opening stretch, a 13-4 New York run, put the game safely in the Liberty’s hands. Boyd assisted on four baskets in the run, while Charles netted five points.
“I hope it’s a building block for us. It’s one game, we want to string games together,” Smith said of the fourth. “We’re going out to Vegas, out to LA, two road trips. I hope it’s something … we just build off of.”
The Liberty will embark on a two-game west coast swing, starting on Friday against the Las Vegas Aces (10:00 PM, ESPN2). They’ll be seeking revenge against ex-head coach Bill Laimbeer, whose Aces topped the Liberty 78-63 in a showdown in White Plains last week.
“They’re going to make other people (other than Tina Charles) beat us,” Smith said. “We got to knock down shots, we got to be aggressive. We got to have Tina post up, and get her the ball.”