Amanda Zahui B came off the bench and provided a much needed spark for the New York Liberty Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Zahui B finished with a team-high 14 points to lead the Liberty to a 75-65 win over the San Antonio Stars.
The Liberty improved to 15-6 on the season, and they’ve now won their last three games and nine of their last 11. New York is three and a half games in front of the second place Atlanta Dream in the Eastern Conference.
The Stars fell to 5-15 on the season, and they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11.
This had all the dimensions of a trap game for the Liberty.
“This is one of those games you can fall down,” Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer said afterwards. “We almost did.”
San Antonio is without their leading scorer Kayla McBride, and the team announced that she will miss the rest of the season with a foot fracture. McBride was eighth in the WNBA in scoring at 17.1 points per game, so losing her is a major blow to the struggling Stars.
The Liberty didn’t have it easy in this one, despite the lowly record of their opponents. San Antonio, for the better part of the first three quarters, stayed within striking distance of New York.
It was an uneven first half for the Liberty, who committed an uncharacteristic eight turnovers. New York, despite holding San Antonio to only 31.4% shooting from the field, took a slim 33-31 lead into halftime.
Laimbeer, perhaps noticing his starters didn’t have their usual energy, went back to his bench in the second half. Zahui B, with Tina Charles sitting out the fourth quarter, combined with Kiah Stokes to relentlessly attack the boards for rebounds and 2nd chance opportunities. Brittany Boyd’s running layup, with 7:38 left, gave New York a commanding 60-51 lead.
Boyd would strike again, later in the quarter, with another strong move to the basket for a finger roll layup which pushed the Liberty’s lead to 11. New York was able to keep San Antonio at arm’s length the rest of the way to secure the victory.
“It’s been coming for them,” Laimbeer said afterward about his team’s improved bench play. “We talked about it now for a good ten days that I need to trust them a little bit more and they need to come together as a second unit and understand who they are and what their identity is. If you get it together and you can expand the lead or hold the lead you’ll get more minutes as a unit. So that’s what happened tonight, they played very well. We were a little lethargic throughout the course of the game and they provided the spark.”
Monique Curry finished with a game-high 17 points for the Stars, Sydney Colson added 12 points off the bench on 5 of 6 shooting.
The Liberty are back at the Garden, Wednesday morning, to host the Atlanta Dream. Tipoff is 11am.
Shavonte Zellous appeared to turn her ankle in the final minutes of the 4th quarter, near the Liberty bench. Zellous went down and immediately grabbed for the ankle, visibly in pain. She remained on the Liberty bench for treatment from the team’s medical staff. Zellous finished with 10 points, including 6 of 6 from the foul line, in nearly 21 minutes of action. There was no postgame update on Zellous’ injury.