New York, NY – In Friday Night basketball at Madison Square Garden the New York Liberty (16-11) was able to continue to cast their spell over the Eastern Conference. New York dazzled the 11,465 in The Garden for tonight’s game, with a display of sweet passing to go along with some sweet shots for the 85-77 victory over the Washington Mystics (16-11).
New York now moves on up the standings as they are now tied for third place in the East as the playoff push continues. Tonight’s win was sweet for Liberty in more ways than one. In terms of the stats four players reached double digit scoring, while the entire team was able to play in tonight’s game. New York was 69.2% shooting from the three-point line as two players displayed some fine shooting from beyond the arc. Those two players were guard Cappie Pondexter who led with 23 points and Leilani Mitchell who had 15 points.
To go beyond the stats from tonight’s game; the Liberty along with the rest of the WNBA honored survivors of Breast Cancer, as before today’s game the Liberty gave pink basketballs to select survivors. The whole Garden was a shade of Pink to celebrate and honor those survivors. For starting point guard Leilani Mitchell, she was one of the many players who were affected by the disease as she lost her mother last year to breast cancer.
“I played for her today,” Mitchell said after the game. “I was really thinking of her throughout the game.” The thoughts of her Mom inspired her shooting 4-of-6 from the three- point range, to along with six assists.
Head Coach Anne Donovan had this to say of her point guard, “Leilani came back and Lei was Lei. She is one of the best three-point shooters in the game and we have a ton of confidence in her. So when she is aggressive like she was, it frees everyone else up.”
“You can tell that Lei was really emotional out there today,” Guard Cappie Pondexter said after the game. “It is a really tough thing to go through, but she did a great job for us tonight. The guard earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. Pondexter holds the Liberty record for most Player of the Week honors in what is still a young 2010 season. The only other player to nab two was Janel McCarville, who accomplished the feat in 2008.
“It is our defensive intensity,” Pondexter said of the win. “We did a great job of stopping key players like Crystal Langhorne, Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding.” Pondexter also shot 4-of-6 from the three-point range, while also dishing out six assist.
The Mystics who had complete control of the game in the first quarter of play lost total control. As New York cut into and eventually got a well earned victory in the last three quarters of play. New York’s defense attributed to five steals tonight along with a number of shot clock violations to help in the win.
“The key to good defense and passing is it all about giving and trust,” Center Taj McWilliams-Franklin said after the game. “Our defense is contingent on trusting each other. We know when someone is going to be there, and when they are not saying something. That kind of trust only comes with playing with each other.”
On the shot clock violations the center said, “It feels great, it is always like hey if you can do it once let us do it again, you almost get spoiled. It feels good but you also need to do something on the offensive end of the court.”
Taj looking more like the Tasmanian devil cartoon, as the center recorded 12 points, four rebounds four assist and one steal. The center showed some aggressive play in the inside post, while also having some sweet spin shots during the course of the basketball game. The heart and hustle of the center was noticed at the 2:22 mark in the third quarter when Coach Donovan took the center out for a breather. A good majority of the crowd in the Garden stood on their feet to applaud the effort of the center in the game.
“I love it- I love playing- I love competing,” the center said. “There is that feeling when you play sports that you can’t get anywhere else. You want people to be glad that they spend their money to come out to see you.” She would continue to say, “You want to give everything you have out on the court and that is something over the years I have tried to do.
Also giving her all was forward Planate Pierson, who had one of the sweetest shots in the game tonight. Pierson who drove in for a lay-up had the ball spin once around the net before going in. On the night as a whole Pierson had this to say, “It is really inspiring to have been part of the pre-game ceremony with the breast cancer survivors. They are a positive influence for cancer survivors.” Pierson would tell this story as well, “They all said thank you to us when we handed them the pink basketballs, and we were all like thank you for being here today.”
New York will go on to face the fourth-seeded team in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Lynx. The two teams will play on Sunday, August, 8 at 7:00 p.m. On Friday the Liberty will be back to Eastern Conference play as they face the Atlanta Dream, before returning back home on Saturday, August 14 to face the defending WNBA champions Phoenix Mercury with the MSG telecasted game to tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
“We can continue to climb and take everything one game at a time,” Leilani Mitchell said of the playoff push. “We just need to play hard and bring energy like we did most of the game tonight and we will be alright.”
Charity Note: On Saturday August 14 prior to the 7:30 p.m. game the New York Liberty along with the Garden of Dreams Foundation is set to host annual school supply drive. The first 500 fans who bring unused supplies such as pencils, notebooks, crayons will receive a special commemorative Liberty item. Collection bins will be set up in the mall area as fans enter The Garden.