WNBA: New York Rides Charles' Outburst To Even Series With Washington and Head Back Home
WASHINGTON – Playing with purpose and passion, the New York Liberty kept its season alive by controlling Game 2 of its 86-68 wire-to-wire Eastern semifinals victory over the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon.
Fueled by Tina Charles’ awesome show, the Liberty forced a decisive third game Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden on ESPN2 beginning at 7:00 p.m.
The winner will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the survivor of the Fever-Sky series. Game Three is Monday night in Chicago.
Charles scored 17 of her 22 points in the third quarter to help the Liberty stretch a 44-37 halftime lead into a comfortable 70-52 bulge entering the final quarter.
Charles outscored the entire Mystics team, 17-15, in the decisive quarter.
She faced up at the basket and drained jumpers like Steph Curry. Charles also made baskets while shooting off one foot. She was sensational, unstoppable and angry.
“I just was not satisfied with the way I played the first half,” Charles said. “I thought I could have been smarter and more efficient. Once I saw a couple shots go in from 15 feet, I just got confident and I kept attacking.
"If there is one person that tells me not to settle, it is Tanisha (Wright). I just kept attacking, I was in the zone. I just played like it was my last. That is all I kept saying: I want to see Tuesday, we want to see Tuesday.”
During her third quarter burst, Charles hit three long jumpers consecutively, but with the lead still only at eight, she drained a pair of mid-range fade away 11-footers to push New York’s lead back into double figures.
She ended her third-quarter with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, just her second of the season and third of her career.
With Epiphany Prince and Carolyn Swords opening the game by combining for 17 points in the first10 minutes, the Liberty sprinted to a 23-15 lead after the first quarter.
Prince set the tone early, completing a four-point play on the very first possession of the game, and then finished an and-one opportunity to give the Liberty a 9-2 lead 94 seconds into the game.
Sugar Rodgers, who was scoreless in Friday’s double overtime loss to the Mystics, immediately got into the groove by making her first two baskets.
Rodgers, who starred here at nearby Georgetown in the mega wars of the old Big East, helped the Liberty open the second quarter with an 11-0 burst to take a 34-15 lead.
She finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 accuracy.
Overall, The Liberty scored 32 bench points on Sunday after getting just six points from its reserves in game one.
Essence Carson added nine timely points and Candice Wiggins was a factor defensively. The Liberty did plenty correct in evening up the series.
“We knew we didn’t play at the level we were capable of on Friday so today our goal was to give our team what we needed,” Rodgers said. “We wanted to defend and share the ball. When Tina got hot, it was definitely fun to watch.”
The Liberty outrebounded Washington 33-24 and outscored the Mystics in the paint 36-10.
New York turned it over eight times after committing 18 turnovers in Game One. The Liberty also made 47.6 percent of its shots. Swords finished with 12 points and Prince added 11 points for New York.
“I thought our team played focused,” New York head coach Bill Laimbeer, who entered the postgame press conference looking for a bite to eat. “We were focused last game. Unfortunately, we did not get the job done. Things did not go our way, but tonight we played a good solid mental game.”
The Liberty’s early surge rendered Washington’s dynamite 3-point shooting meaningless.
Led by a postseason career-high 19 points from Tayler Hill, the Mystics tied a franchise playoff record with 11 3-pointers.
Hill had five of her six triples in the first half. Her six 3-pointers also tied a Mystics franchise record for most by an individual in a playoff game.
Ivory Latta scored 15 points for Washington.
“We didn’t respond,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “We got off to a bad start with the two and one plays on Epiphanny Prince.
"We fouled her on a three and a jump shot. Tonight we let Tina [Charles] get going for the third quarter. We called a couple time outs and kept doubling but, she stepped out every time and made shots that she didn’t make the same way.”
The Mystics are confident this game won’t linger heading back to New York as They will look to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2002.
“When I leave here this game is over with,” Latta said. “It’s a new day. We are going to come back here and watch film, correct the things that we need to correct, practice, get on the train or bus and head back to New York.
"It is a mindset. Like coach always tell us, 'next play.' It’s the next game for us now. Everyone has to stay focused and we have to lift each other up. It is not the end of the road. We still have a chance of moving on.”
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