Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

WNBA: Mystics Succumb to Liberty's 3-For-All

(Guru's Note: While we were dealing on Sunday with the return from Houston and the weekend celebration of Dawn Staley's career, our Washington correspondent Jonathan Tannenwald made his working debut in Madison Square Garden in New York reporting on the Mystics' visit to the Liberty on the final day of the WNBA's regular season.)

By Jonathan Tannenwald

NEW YORK _ For the New York Liberty, this season has been far from ideal.

But while their game Sunday against the Washington Mystics was of no consequence in the standings to either team, New York gave some meaning to their Fan Appreciation Day by winning the contest, 93-81, at Madison Square Garden.

New York’s main weapon was a barrage of three-pointers, hitting a franchise record 13 of 26 attempts from behind the arc.

That also helped get the crowd of 11,907 on its feet, drowning out the sizeable section of Mystics fans that could be heard throughout the arena before the game.

The Liberty’s effort both on offense on defense pleased coach Pat Coyle, who can point to seven wins in her team’s last ten games this season as reason for optimism heading into next year.

“I always want to make the playoffs,” Coyle said. "But in saying that, with such a young team – eight new players and so many being first or second year – I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made.”

Interestingly, both teams shot 31-for-62 from the field for the game. But the Liberty got their edge from the 3-point line and the free throw line as well, making all 18 of their foul shots.


Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld led New York with 22 points, while Becky Hammon scored 21 points and dished out six assists.

The Mystics hurt themselves as well.

Although they jumped out to a 11-2 lead early in the first quarter, they faltered afterwards, and were outscored in all three of the other quarters.

While Alana Beard scored an impressive 29 points, Nikki Teasley did not score and took only two shots. Chasity Melvin also recorded only two field goal attempts, scoring three points – a layup and the ensuing free throw in the second quarter.

“They did a great job of shooting the ball, and we were lax on defense,” Beard said. “I can’t really pinpoint anything that happened, it was just a good game all around.”

Mystics coach Richie Adubato admitted he was happy to rest his key players at the end and avoid any injuries as the playoffs loom later this week.

“We’d love to go into the playoffs on a high note, but we think we had our high note Friday against Detroit,” he said, referring to the Mystics’ 78-66 win over the Shock two days earlier. “Today was a game where we were going to play people, play a lot of people, and try not to get anybody hurt.”

Adubato also said that using so many players hurt his team’s cohesiveness. “We would have liked to have done a better job, but we had different combinations of people out there, and they didn’t understand where the screens were,” he said.

He was quick to add, though, that the ability to play his bench in the last game before the playoffs wasn’t something he anticipated earlier in the season.

“When I looked at the schedule earlier this year and I saw we were playing New York on ABC the last game of the season, I was saying, ‘Oh wow, they’re looking for the battle of the century in the last game,’” he said. “So it could have been that, and my life would have been a lot rougher than it was today.”

But that didn’t happen, allowing both the New York-born coach and his hometown’s team a rare luxury in this city – an afternoon free of complaints.

The Mystics will now have most of the week to prepare for their first-round Eastern Conference playoff opener Friday at the Verizon Center in Washington against the Connecticut Sun, which won the regular season for the third straight year and also claimed their second straight best overall WNBA record.

The best-of-three series will then move to Uncasville on Sunday and, if necessary, remain there for a Tuesday night confrontation. The winner will then meet the the survivor between the Indiana Fever and Detroit Shock to determine which team will advance to the finals from the East.

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