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Slow first quarter, red-hot Taurasi, doom New York Liberty (Highlights)

The New York Liberty quickly fell behind on Tuesday night and never fully recovered, dropping their third in a row.

The New York Liberty played around 32 minutes of basketball on Tuesday night. In a cruel twist, however, WNBA basketball games last 40 minutes.

An early 15-2 run by the Phoenix Mercury, headlined by classic Diana Taurasi antics, put the Liberty in an early hole, one they never recovered from as the Western Conference visitors took an 83-69 decision at Westchester County Center.

It’s the second home loss for the Liberty (4-9) against Phoenix this season, as well as their third in a row and fifth in their past six overall.

Now with a league-high 11 wins, the Mercury (11-5) teased the Liberty by allowing them to draw ever so close, their lead dwindling to as low as five in the third quarter.

However, they drew momentum on both sides of the ball, as they shot 14-for-23 from three-point range with Taurasi, the leading scorer in WNBA history, providing the most damage with 27 points, 21 of which came from the triple. In the paint, Brittney Griner stifled hopes of a New York comeback, swatting away six would-be Liberty baskets.

“Scoring points is hard for us right now,” head coach Katie Smith observed. “We have to find a way to put some more points on the board.”

3rd Star: Amanda Zahui B.

Zahui B. continues to be a strong reserve presence for the Liberty, as she reached double-figures for the third consecutive game.

“She’s had some fine opportunities. She’s really good at finding space to get a shot off,” Smith said of Zahui B.’s outside shooting. “She’s had great minutes because she’s producing. She’s active on rebounds, she’s earned her time.”

2nd Star: Shavonte Zellous

After a two-game departure, Zellous, who sat out Friday’s game with an illness, returned to the starting line against Phoenix and brought her trademark spark to the New York lineup. She reached 11 points, tying Bria Hartley for second-most on the team for the sixth time this season.

1st Star: Tina Charles 

More was history was made by Charles, who passed Taj McWilliams-Franklin for 18th all-time on WNBA scoring list. However, Charles, who also picked up eight rebounds, is more concerned about getting her team back in the win column.

“I’m very concerned (about being 4-9),” Charles said. “Me being moody is because of that, because I know we’re better than that. It’s not about touches, it’s not about anything like that for me. I’m just tired of losing. We don’t want to get used to it.”

How It Was Decided

The Liberty roared back into the game with a strong second quarter, and the momentum carried over to the early stages of the third. It appeared a close basket by Kia Vaughn would make it a 47-44 game, but a lengthy review seemingly stifled any hope of a comeback. Vaughn was instead called for an offensive foul, and the Mercury went on to close the quarter on a 20-6 run.

Smith, however, wasn’t ready to make excuses.

“When there’s a review of a hostile act, they can make four different determinations, so they called an offensive foul,” she said. “It’s a basketball play.”

Game Notes

  • The Liberty entered Tuesday’s game with a league-low 14.3 free throw attempts per game and only had 12 on Tuesday. To make matters worse, they only sank seven.
  • Marissa Coleman (right ankle sprain) did not play. There is no timetable for her return.
  • The Liberty are 4-2 when Zellous scores at least 10 points. Both losses have come to Phoenix.

What’s Next

The Liberty will play back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, first headed to our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Mystics (7:00 p.m. ET, MSG+). They’ll face the Chicago Sky back in White Plains on Friday night.

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