After a first half that featured 11 lead changes, the New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury were locked in a tightly contested matchup as both teams attempted to end the regular season on a high note. However, the Mercury (20-14) began the second half on an 11-2 run to seize the first double digit lead of the game, and they did not look back, ultimately prevailing 96-85 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday.
Kia Nurse led the charge for the shorthanded Liberty (7-27) in the first half, notching 22 points before the break. The rookie finished with 28 points, making nine of her 16 attempts from the field while also grabbing seven rebounds. It was the second highest scoring output of her career, and it marked the fourth time this season she paced the Liberty in scoring.
Rebecca Allen and Kiah Stokes joined her in double figures off the bench, notching 15 and 12 points, respectively. Stokes was a rebound away from her second consecutive double-double; the center has averaged 9.5 boards a game over her past six.
For the second straight game, Sugar Rodgers had a strong fourth quarter, scoring all nine of her points in the period. The sharpshooter has made seven threes in the past two fourth quarters, and she helped jumpstart the 15-6 New York run to end the game.
The loss was the Liberty’s 13th to end the 2018 season.
“For us it has been, honestly, the last stretch has been about playing hard.” Head coach Katie Smith explained. “We’ve played harder for 40 minutes, and we didn’t do that all year, that is not going to win a lot of games especially when we don’t have people who can put the ball in the hole as easily as Phoenix and some of these other teams. We just didn’t play hard enough or consistently enough throughout the season and dug ourselves a hole. This league is too good, but we also need to find more scoring on a consistent basis night in and night out. I am really impressed with the way we finished the year even though we aren’t in the playoffs I thought they really battled.”
With a full offseason to get healthy, the Liberty look like a prime bounce back candidate for next season.
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