The New York Liberty beat the Atlanta Dream, 82-73, in their season opener on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Liberty were led by Tina Charles, who had a double-double with 17 points on 6-for-13 from the field (0-1 on threes), with 12 rebounds and 3 assists. Swin Cash had a big game off the bench, with 15 points on superb 6-for-8 from the field, 1-2 on threes, and 2 rebounds. Newcomers Tanisha Wright, who started and Brittany Boyd, the rookie out of California who came off the bench, chipped in 14 points each.
The Liberty set the tone early. From when it was tied at 12 at the five-minute mak of the first quarter, they closed the frame on an 18-9 run to open up a 30-21 lead. They led 51-38 at halftime, the 51 points more than their NBA counterparts, the dreadful Knicks, put up most nights.
In the third quarter, Angel McCoughtry got a lay-up to cut the Liberty’s lead to four, at 57-53, at the 4:22 mark. The Liberty responded with a 10-3 run, capped by 5 points from Swin Cash. The Liberty took a 67-59 lead into the fourth and never looked back.
Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer said of the team, “Those of you who have been around our team for the last few weeks in training camp, I said I don’t know what we got yet, and I really still don’t, but I told everybody that listened was I know how we’re gonna play. I know how we’re gonna be intense, how hard we’re gonna play, and I know the chemistry of our ball club, and all of those were on display tonight.
“My goal today, and I told my wife coming into work, I said ‘the goal today, I don’t know if we won fine, lost, would love to win, but if we lost, we wanted to put a show on for the fans because that’s who they are in that locker room,’ and I think that was a fun game for the fans to watch. They really moved the ball up and down the floor. You saw some young player they can really identify and grow with, and that’s why we changed our team over the last two years to what we have right now. It’s still a workign process, let’s see how it goes, one game doesn’t mean anythinnnngggg. But, I said the last couple weeks, I like this basketball team, I like who they are, now let’s see it translates into wins and losses,” said Laimbeer.
Rebecca Allen, the rookie out of Australia, debuted with 6 points (3-6 FG, 0-2 on threes) and 3 rebounds in 19 minutes. Laimbeer said of how she will be a part of the project moving forward, “Well, we looked at her before we started making moves, looked at her as our first round pick – we didn’t have it! Then we thought more, we watched her on tape, I never saw her play live, watched her on tape, and said ‘we want this kid,’ and we thought that she would work her way in. Her professional experience in Australia has been a big bonus for her. She’s well ahead of her time for a normal rookie. She’s solid, a solid basketball player. She played 19 minutes tonight, I don’t see that changing throughout the course of the year, some games it’ll be 12 or 13, some games it’ll be 25, depends how she plays. She’s a shooter, and we can’t have enough of those.”
On winning this opener with all the new players, Laimbeer said, “Yeah, we had a really nice crowd. I was looking at the start and going, ‘Okay, it’s New York, they’ll be here eventually,’ and it started filling in. It was a nice crowd, they were into it, they were loud, Brittany Boyd put a couple moves on some people that they jumped out of their seats. We had some fast breaks that fans got up on their feet and they really appreciated our style of play and I think they saw how hard we played and the chemistry of the ballclub together, how they all rooted for each other, they were standing up talking to each other. I mean, this is such light years ahead of what we’ve had the last couple years, this is just fun!”