Mercury down Liberty, 83-69, to end two-game skid

Westchester, N.Y. – The Phoenix Mercury snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday with an 83-69 win over the New York Liberty.

Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 27 points including seven three-point shots, while DeWanna Bonner added 18 points and Sancho Lyttle and Brittney Griner, 12 a piece. It was the fifth loss out of the last six games for the struggling Liberty, who drop to tenth in the league.

Phoenix was hot to start, scoring 44 points after the first half on 50 percent shooting from the field and 69.2 percent from behind the arc. New York never posed a challenge in the second half, and the visitors ran away with the win.

Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said the game was more representative of the way they were playing before their losses, when they were on a winning streak.

“I’m happy about tonight’s win because we played great basketball,” she said. “Every game, we cannot underestimate anyone, and we just have to put in more effort and play more like a unit.”

Tina Charles led four Liberty players in double figures with 10 points in a game where the team shot 40 percent from the field and make only 58 percent of their free throws. They have been losing by an average of 16.6 points per game.

Coach Katie Smith acknowledged that her team had defensive lapses.

“It’s tough, as they have shooters all over the floor,” she said. “They space the floor and tonight, everyone was hitting shots. Diana [Taurasi] shouldn’t hit that many [three-pointers].”

New York continued to leave Phoenix shooters open throughout the contest.

“We needed to run her off the line and take tough contested two pointers,” Smith said. “They have a lot of people and are playing their shooters….folks who can knock it down and that puts a lot of pressure on you.”

The Mercury shot 60.9 percent from three, even with their opponents outscoring them 30-14 in the paint. New York has to find more consistent options to pair with center Charles, who continues to carry the load on offense. Brondello said her team focused their defense on Charles.

“Our defense was great. Tina [Charles] protects the paint so we had to make her feel uncomfortable,” Brondello said. “You have to make great players feel uncomfortable, and that’s exactly what we did.”

At 4-9, the pressure on the Liberty will begin to intensify as the season progresses. They now have a fully-healthy lineup, after battling injuries. But when will progress be seen?

Veteran guard Sugar Rodgers continues to find a way forward and not dwell on losses.

“Sometimes you get down like this, but it is about how you overcome,” Rodgers said. “It is like adversity, how will you overcome it? We just have to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, and taking the good instead of the bad.”

Smith saw some good things from her team in the game.

“I thought we picked it up and got locked in. It was tough on the offensive end, but I thought our defense definitely got more engaged,’ Smith said. “We were helping each other out, getting rebounds and crashing the boards that got us some offensive rebounds.”

Phoenix travels to Indiana Friday to take on the Fever, while New York visits the Washington Mystics.