New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury

A late surge in the fourth quarter doomed the shorthanded New York Liberty to another loss, their eighth in a row, despite a Tina Charles double-double.

The New York Liberty have proven themselves to be a group of young, classy competitors that refuse to back down from a challenge.

It’s a silver lining for sure, but consolation doesn’t lead to victories.

Tina Charles had a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds and Tanisha Wright had a season-best 18 point. The veterans’ efforts, however, weren’t enough to prevent another loss. DeWanna Bonner put up 30 points for the Phoenix Mercury, who earned a crucial 78-72 victory on Sunday night against New York.

The Liberty (8-18) have now lost eight in a row. Half of their losses have come by single digits.

“I thought we battled but we just had a tough time scoring in the second and the fourth and we fouled a little too much,” head coach Katie Smith said. “Three-pointers and free-throws were really the difference in the ballgame, but I thought we battled and defense was solid and held them to 78 points. Going to be tough winning ball games scoring 72 but we competed tonight.”

To Smith’s point, Phoenix sank nine three-pointers, while the Liberty hit only three. New York also sank all 13 of their free throws, but the Mercury got to the line on 28 occasions. Bonner alone sank 8-of-9 while no one on the Liberty visited more than five times.

Veterans Charles and Wright rose to the occasion for the Liberty. Charles kept a red-hot August going with 15 points in the first quarter alone. Sunday marked the fifth time over her past six games that she reached at least 20 points. She’s averaging 20.2 points over that span.

Perhaps more impressive was the emergence of Wright, who reached double figures for the first time since July 3. 16 of her tally came in the second half and helped the Liberty build a lead that summitted at eight in the fourth quarter.

Wright complimented her scoring with five assists and four rebounds.

“She has been great for us. She understands that on certain nights she has to give us defense or maybe it is offense. She picks her poison and is smart about the shots she gets but she was also being aggressive tonight. She really has been a mainstay for us and a steady force on both ends.”

Unfortunately for the Liberty, who were missing starters Amanda Zahui B (concussion) and Asia Durr (groin strain) for the fourth consecutive game, another late surge from a hungry squad proved to be their undoing.

Phoenix (12-13) would go on to outscore the Liberty 28-18 in the fourth quarter. The Liberty had a shot to take a late lead, trailing just 66-65 entering the final minute. Ex-New Yorker Leilani Mitchell snuffed out the thought.

After a Phoenix miss, Mitchell stole an errant pass and ran out a majority of the shot clock. She would then sink the last of the Mercury triples with 40 seconds to go, sending the locals at Talking Stick Resort Arena into hysterics. The Liberty fought to the end, but couldn’t erase the late deficit.

Mitchell would earn 19 points for the Mercury, who also enjoyed a double-figure scoring effort from Yvonne Turner (13). Bonner had a double-double of her own with 10 rebounds to accompany her shooting.

Phoenix now has a five-game advantage on the Liberty for the final playoff spot in the WNBA standings. New York has five games left on their docket.

“Keep your head up, I thought we got better on defense, I thought we competed, we just have to knock down shots and make life a little easier on ourselves,” Smith said when asked about her message to the team. “I thought they showed up today and really worked and battled and that was huge and we have to do it again on Tuesday.”

Perhaps personifying the New York resiliency, Kia Nurse had nine points and seven rebounds. Nurse left the game in the third quarter with an apparent wrist injury, but later returned to score seven consecutive points over the last of the third and early stages of the fourth.

New York and Phoenix will meet one last time on August 27 at Westchester County Center.

The Liberty will complete a three-game road trip on Tuesday night, taking on the Indiana Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

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