Liberty lose a heart breaker to Mercury

Tina Charles, the Liberty’s future Hall of Famer, moved into the top 10 all-time of WNBA scoring, but it wasn’t enough as the Liberty lost their eighth straight Sunday to the Mercury in Phoenix, 78-72.

Charles passed Seimone Augustus to give her 5,878 points, giving her 19 more points than the Lynx guard who’s still playing at 35. Charles, a 6’4” big, had 23 points – 15 in the first quarter – and 13 rebounds. Tanisha Wright scored a season-high 18 points for the Liberty as well. The Liberty were without two starters.

New York (8-18) scored nine consecutive points to take an eight-point lead early in the fourth, but DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix’s 6’4” PF, scored the Mercury’s final 12 points in a 16-4 run that gave Phoenix a 66-63 lead with 1:44 to play. Bonner scored 17 of her 30 points in the fourth quarter and had 10 rebounds.

Wright answered with a driving layup and, after Bonner missed a 3-pointer, Leilani Mitchell stole a pass and then stepped around a screen and hit a straightaway three to make it 69-65 with 54 seconds left. Phoenix hit 7 of 8 from the free-throw line from there. Overall, the Mercury outscored New York 25-13 from the free-throw line.

The Liberty were without two starters, power forward Amana Zuhai B (concussion) and wing Asia Durr (groin), but the Mercury had even bigger issues. They were down Brittney Griner (suspension), Diana Taurasi (back), Sancho Lyttle (knee), Essence Carson (calf) and Alanna Smith (ankle).

The Mercury have won two in a row after losing three straight and five of six.

The losing streak is reminiscent of what happened last season when the Libs finished the season on a 13-game losing streak, including a winless August —nine games—to finish the season 7–27.

“I thought we battled but we just had a tough time scoring in the second and the fourth and we fouled a little too much,” head coach Katie Smith said. “Three-pointers and free-throws were really the difference in the ballgame, but I thought we battled and defense was solid and held them to 78 points. Going to be tough winning ball games scoring 72 but we competed tonight.”

The Liberty shot only 20 percent —3-of-15— from deep, a season-long issue.

This has always been a transition year for the Liberty. After Joe Tsai bought the team from James Dolan last January, he knew the team would have to play this season at the antiquated Westchester County Center where Dolan had moved them in a cost-cutting move. Now, with Tsai buying Barclays Center, it seems almost certain that he’ll move the team to Brooklyn for next season.

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