NEWARK, NJ – The refrain is all too familiar.
To the New York liberty players and staff – and not to forget, the fans – it is all too frustrating: come out with a good first half showing then, after halftime, watch the wheels slowly disengage from the bus. On Friday at the Prudential Center it was the same story: the Atlanta Dream defeated the Liberty 70-57.
“We didn’t match their (Atlanta) energy the second half,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer lamented.
“You can’t win if you do not match a team’s energy. Our offense struggled,” Laimbeer continued, “we would miss a shot they would rebound and convert the other end.”
The Liberty mentor also cited the team’s 18 turnovers.
“A year-long problem (turnovers) for us,” he admitted.
The Liberty trailed at the half but were definitely in striking distance as the Dream’s margin was 43-36. As the third quarter began, the visitors ran and hid. They enjoyed a 17-8 edge that third stanza allowing them a 15 point lead going into the final ten minutes. The Dream had the lead, momentum and for all intents and purposes, the game.
Cappie Pondexter sat in the Liberty locker room attended by the trainer. Her ankles and knee were iced. Pondexter was limited to two points. In the second quarter she tried to split two Atlanta defenders in the lane and went down banging her knee. Her minutes (17 on the night) was severely limited.
“I’m a warrior,” she proclaimed, promising to be back ready to go when Phoenix visits the Rock on Tuesday.
Discussing the Liberty’s constant second half malaise, Pondexter said, “I don’t think it as much a lack of energy but our offense falters. We miss shots.” And as Laimbeer noted, “We then get defensive letdowns giving up points at the other end. We dig ourselves into a hole.”
Alex Montgomery, one of three double figure scorers for New York with 10 points, could not put a finger on why the Liberty suddenly struggle the final half. Not once or twice but an all too often number of occurrences.
“I can’t really say why we come out like that in the third quarter,” the Liberty wing confessed. “I can say we will concentrate on that part of the game as we head to our next one on Tuesday.”
Montgomery also agreed that the Liberty’s problem is one of those situations where if the answer was known – by a player or Laimbeer himself – the problem would be solved.
Kara Braxton had a solid inside effort for the Liberty leading all scorers with 17 points. Atlanta just had too much balance. Four double figure point getters led by Angel McCoughtry with 16 and sharpshooting Tiffany Hayes (three treys) posting a dozen.
The Liberty stand at 11-20 with, surprisingly, a chance to make the playoffs. The situation with three games left is an extremely long shot. Still, hope is eternal.
“We are still in it,” Montgomery says. To which Pondexter adds, “Newark and the Prudential Center have been good for us but we do not want Tuesday’s fame to be our last one (before heading back to MSG) here.”