Tina Charles finished with 28 points and Sugar Rodgers added 18 and seven rebounds to lead the New York Liberty to a thrilling 91-88 win over the Dallas Wings, Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Tanisha Wright came up with a block on Odyssey Sims’ game-tying three-point attempt, with 3.7 seconds left, to seal the victory for New York.
Karima Christmas led Dallas with 21 points, and Sims added 19 points and five assists. Skylar Diggins, still working her way back from an ACL injury she sustained last season, finished 0 for 6 from the field with one point in nearly 24 minutes of play.
The Liberty improved to 6-4 on the season, and they’ve now won four of their last five games. The Wings drop to 3-7, and have now lost six in a row.
New York was coming off a three-game road trip where they went 2-1. The Liberty finished off the trip with an impressive 90-75 victory over San Antonio, on Saturday night.
It took awhile for the Liberty to get going, Dallas jumped out to a 12-4 advantage. New York would eventually chip away at that lead, tying the game at 22 on a driving layup, with the and-one, by Sugar Rodgers.
The Liberty, with Tina Charles on the bench with 2 fouls, received another nice lift from Kiah Stokes, to keep pace with Dallas in the second quarter.
“We know who she is from last year,” said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer afterwards. “Unfortunately the offseason didn’t prove very much, she didn’t really work on her game. But she’s made the commitment now to really work on her game and it’s showing… Tonight wasn’t a great offensive performance for her, she didn’t get many shots, 3 for 3, but her overall game is solid and she’s the glue player for us, no question about it.”
Both teams caught fire from behind the three-point line in the second quarter, and there were six lead changes between them. Charles checked back in the game and wasted little time getting back into the groove. Charles showed why she’s the Liberty’s go-to player with eight consecutive points, including back-to-back three’s. Erin Phillips answered right back for Dallas, however, trading baskets with Charles. Phillips scored 9 consecutive points which helped give Dallas a 50-49 lead. Sugar Rodgers capped off the first half scoring with a three-pointer and a driving layup to give New York a 56-50 lead at halftime.
A three-pointer, from Charles, gave the Liberty a 67-59 lead in the third quarter. Dallas, however, would go on a 13-5 run, including two three-pointers from Sims, to close out the third quarter with both teams tied at 72-72.
The inside-out game has been a strong point for the Liberty this season. New York had it going on offense, specifically from the three-point line. New York shot an efficient 7 for 13 from downtown for 53.8%.
The Liberty outscored Dallas, 46-24, on points in the paint. New York also put 46 on the board in that category in their win over San Antonio. Charles made reference to their success in this category, after the game.
“We always try to work inside-out,” said Charles. “Bill (Laimbeer) puts an emphasis on it as the identity for our team.”
The Liberty have dominated the paint this season, they rank first in the WNBA.
On defense tonight, however, there were issues. Dallas made 15 of their 34 attempts from behind the three-point line. There were also breakdowns in the New York defense which led to open shots for the Wings.
“We didn’t get a lot of stops tonight,” said Laimbeer on his team’s overall performance. “In the second half we struggled to score, which was very frustrating.”
In the final quarter, Charles, with the Liberty trailing 80-77, swished a five foot fadeaway jumper. Rodgers, following a steal by Stokes, would drain a three to give New York the lead.
Karima Christmas nailed a three, for Dallas, to tie the game at 85-85 with 2:20 left to play.
Charles, after both teams traded missed baskets, would answer back for New York with an ice cold jumper with 40.3 seconds left. New York would hold on the rest of the way for the hard-fought victory.
Tina Charles exploded for 11, of her 17 first half points, in the second quarter. Charles has been nearly unstoppable inside the paint, however she showcased her range with 9 of her points coming from the three-point line.
This was the second meeting of the season between New York and Dallas, as the Liberty picked up a 79-71 win over the WIngs at the Garden on May 15. These two teams will next meet, September 11, at College Park Center, in Arlington, Texas.
Tanisha Wright pulled down her 1,000th career rebound in the win over Dallas, Tuesday night.
New York heads back out on the road for another three-game trip, beginning Thursday night against the Connecticut Sun. They’ll then make stops in Indiana (June 19) and Atlanta (June 22).
The Liberty are currently one game behind first-place Atlanta, in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Liberty are back at the Garden on June 24 to host the Chicago Sky.