New York Liberty
(Photo: @WNBA)

The New York Liberty ended the first half of their season on a sour note, falling to the WNBA-leading Connecticut Sun on the road.

Geoff Magliocchetti

Two All-Stars will represent the New York Liberty in Las Vegas, but one last win before the break was not to be.

Jasmine Thomas led the Connecticut Sun with 18 points, complimenting a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double from Jonquel Jones. The Sun would put themselves back in a tie atop the WNBA standings with a 70-63 win over the Liberty on Wednesday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena. Wasted in the losing effort was a double-double from Tina Charles (13 points, 11 rebounds).

“I thought we had a shot today,” head coach Katie Smith said. “We’ve got handle that pressure, but I think we’re on the right track. Now it’s (time to) take a breath, mentally, take care of your body. This thing’s going to end up pretty quick.”

New York (8-11) remains a game and a half after out of the final WNBA playoff spot. The current holders, Minnesota, fell to Washington later in the afternoon.

Time will only tell if Wednesday will become a missed opportunity. The Liberty held a 39-36 lead at halftime, energized by a trio of triples from Rebecca Allen off the bench. Allen and Britanny Boyd each contributed big minutes when Kia Nurse sustained an apparent elbow injury.

Nurse would return to the game in the third quarter. Smith later said that Nurse “tweaked” her elbow and that she was “sore, but fine”.

A tough second half spelled New York’s doom. They held the Sun (13-6) to only 14 third-quarter points but countered with just seven of their own. The deficit was manageable in the last stanza, but six missed free throws prevented an upset.

Despite limited minutes from Nurse and Asia Durr (who partook in her first game since July 7 after a groin injury), Charles wasn’t looking for excuses.

“We had everybody today. We had that game. We shot ourselves in the foot,” Charles said. “I know I missed key free throws when we were still in the game. They ramped up their pressure in the third quarter.”

“I think we made some strides. We had a shot today,” Smith reiterated. “In the third quarter, we did not execute, we did not respond well to their pressure. That kind of put us in a hole.”

Connecticut outscored the Liberty 34-24 in the second half to secure the win. Charles stated that improving the defense will be imperative if the team is looking to go on a postseason run.

“Since I’ve been here, (defense has) always been the definition of the New York Liberty,” she said. “I don’t know where that’s gone. But I know we have 13 games in August and August is a key month for us.”

After Charles and Nurse partake in Vegas’ All-Star activities this weekend, the Liberty will return to action on Aug. 1 in Dallas (8:00 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Positives have emerged, but the New York consensus is that they’re capable of accomplishing more. Boyd noted last week that earning eight wins was not a cause for celebration, despite moving past last season’s nightmarish tally of seven.

Smith hopes her team will enjoy their rest but stay prepared for the big challenge that lies ahead.

“I hope it’s a good break. Breaks can be tricky. I hope they’re hungry when they get back. I hope they’re excited about the possibilities. I hope they’re excited about the fact that they can play with anybody,” she said. “It will not get easier. I hope the break is good for us. I hope they come back chomping at the bit.”

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