NEWARK, NJ – It started with the New York Liberty scoring the game’s first eleven points. After that, things really became unraveled.
For the Phoenix Mercury it was a night to forget. Nothing went right. The Liberty got out of the gate fast and kept the pressure on.
The result, an 87-59 Liberty win at the Prudential Center on Wednesday, in what coach John Whisenant termed, “Our best and most complete performance of the season.”
And who could argue? Suddenly, playoff talk is treated with seriousness among the Liberty faithful.
A week ago, a ‘second season’ seemed to be slipping away, out of grasp.
The Liberty were defeated by the Indiana Fever in a game where the dreaded turnovers were the difference; for New York, there were too many. A couple nights later the Liberty cut down on those self- destructive miscues and earned a tough win over the Washington Mystics. Against, Phoenix, care of the ball was a priority and epitomized as the Liberty romped.
“We talked about turnovers after the Indiana game,” Whisenant said. “I think we rushed things. We came off a tough road trip and instead of making four or five passes we made one and tried to do too much too fast. Indiana defended us but we talked about what we could do to limit our turnovers and ball handling mistakes.”
It worked and resulted in two consecutive and much needed victories.
“Every game we have lost, turnovers have been a huge part of,” Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter noted. “I mean not just a few turnovers but 20 or 2. For us to win we have to take better care of the ball.”
The Liberty did just that on this evening with only 12 on the night. On the flip side was outstanding ball movement supplying a wealth of open perimeter shots and good looks in the paint.
“I liked how we moved the ball especially against their zone,” Pondexter said. “We had that good ball movement plus we had the cutters on the move as well.”
It all added up to a 47% shooting night, highlighted by 9 of 22 (40.9 %) from long range. Plenette Pierson led the way with 17 points as every Liberty player got into the scoring column.
On the Mercury side, total frustration was the mindset.
“We had a sluggish start,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “We had a long flight and got in the night before. We played tired and from the beginning we looked like we were stuck in mud.”
Gaines talked about the injuries that have decimated his club. Injuries aside, the Mercury had no answer for the Liberty, “We tried zone, man, traps,” Gaines said. “Nothing worked.”
DeWanna Bonner led the Mercury and all scorers with 20 points. Bonner, however, shot 6 of 19 from the floor. Diana Turasi 915 minutes of action) and Alexis Hornbuckle were the other Phoenix double digit scorers with 10 each.
The Liberty improved to 11-16 while Phoenix fell to 6-20. Three consecutive home games are on tap for New York. Optimism is growing but not complacency.
“Every team is close to being able to get a win on that given night,” Pondexter said. “Now is no time to relax. We have to continue to play hard and play smart.”