New York Liberty win 4th in a row, sweep road trip (Highlights)

The New York Liberty erased an early deficit to win their fourth game in a row. They also completed a sweep of a three-game road trip.

Geoff Magliocchetti

New York Liberty games have not been for the faint of basketball heart this season. Ten of their 14 games have been decided by single digits.

As winners of the last four, the Liberty certainly don’t mind.

Kia Nurse had 26 points, while Tina Charles made history in the midst of a double-double. Their efforts guided the Liberty to an 80-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. With the win, the Liberty (7-7) return to .500 and match their win total from all of last season.

The Liberty enjoyed deja vu in a back-and-forth game in Phoenix that featured 10 lead changes, all in the second half. The last came when Charles scored the last of her 23 points on a jumper with 51 seconds remaining. Charles previously gave the Liberty the lead for good in the final minutes on Wednesday afternoon in Seattle.

Charles also grabbed 12 rebounds. In the process, she became the seventh player in WNBA history to reach 3,000 career rebounds. Needing just 310 games to do so, Charles is 11 away from passing Taj McWilliams-Franklin for sixth on the all-time list.

The Liberty earned their win despite Brittney Griner’s season-high 30 points. She was forced to carry Phoenix’s first-half load as the Liberty’s defense cracked down on her compatriots. DeWanna Bonner, Charles’ main competition for the WNBA scoring lead, was limited to a season-low nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. Briann January was 2-of-9.

“Overall I think everybody, when their number was called, was able to step up but I thought our defensive pressure and intensity really swayed the game and got us back where we needed to be,” head coach Katie Smith analyzed. “I thought the first quarter they dictated, our defense wasn’t real assertive. Second quarter I thought we got ourselves right back in the ball game and third and fourth quarter it was just a knock out, drag out. But I thought our defense overall got us this win tonight.”

Despite the early struggles, Phoenix (5-6) did take an early lead in front of their home crowd. Griner took advantage of Amanda Zahui B’s overseas-induced absence against Reshanda Gray to build the early advantage. The Mercury’s lead would summit at 17-4 until a Nurse triple ended the run. Seeds of a road victory were planted when the Liberty were able to trim the lead to single digits at 26-17 after the first 10 minutes.

The Liberty continued their comeback course in the second. While the defense kept Phoenix limited to 15 points, the Liberty sliced the lead all the way down to one as the halftime horn sounded. They took their first lead on a Charles jumper in the third, commencing a back-and-forth thriller.

With the teams deadlocked at 76, Charles grabbed a rebound off a January miss. She headed back down the floor and hit her go-ahead jumper before preserving the newly formed slim lead with a rebound off Bonner’s misfire. A chance for a dagger went by the wayside after Reshanda Gray was caught traveling with 10 seconds to go. Gray would make up for it with a defensive effort that forced Griner to put up a contested shot. She would grab the rebound before getting fouled with five seconds on the clock.

Since Phoenix wasn’t yet over the limit, a quick foul on Tanisha Wright was needed with 2.7 seconds left. The veteran sank her ensuing pair to allow the Liberty to exhale. The foul shots were part of the eight points off the bench for Wright. She also added in five assists for good measure. Asia Durr returned to double-figures with 10 points, while Gray had 10 rebounds, giving her 44 over her past four games.

The New York victory also allowed them to sweep a three-game road trip, which also went through Atlanta and Seattle. They’ll return home on Sunday afternoon at Westchester County Center for a rubber match against the Las Vegas Aces (3:00 p.m. ET, FOX Sports Go). Each team has won on their respective home court in the first two meetings.

“We’ll take tomorrow off and get out minds right on Sunday and give it a go, it’s going to be a battle every single night in this league,” Smith said. “But, I hope these guys are excited about getting back on the floor and we’ll jump it up and see what
happens.”

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