By Ed Easton Jr.
Despite posting the best regular season win total in franchise history and earning home court advantage, the New York Liberty find themselves one loss away from playoff elimination.
The Liberty dropped game one of the best-of-three Eastern Conference Finals to the visiting Atlanta Dream 81 – 75 in front of the home crowd. Cappie Pondexter’s 24 points weren’t enough as the Liberty allowed six unanswered points in the game’s final minute after taking a one point lead.
“Atlanta’s a good team, they do what they do well,” said Pondexter. “We have to make adjustments in terms of the way we approach the game in Atlanta. Number one we have to start the game off very aggressive, number two we have to contain them on the rebounds like we did in the second half”.
The Dream were sparked by Angel McCoughtry who led the team with 21 points and earning a WNBA playoff record for free throws attempts in a quarter with 16 all in the fourth. Sancho Lyttle posted a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds to help lead the team.
“We just refused to lose tonight, we knew it was gonna be tough coming into the garden with all the great fans they have here” said Dream head coach Marynell Meadors. “We are a great rebounding team, we’re number one in the WNBA and I think our rebounding controlled both ends of the court at times”.
Atlanta outrebounded New York 40 – 28, including 15 offensive boards, and scored 22 second-chance points. The Liberty were without their leading rebounder Janel McCarville, who missed her second straight playoff game with a sprained ankle.
“We talk about rebounding is the difference in this game and Janel is our leading rebounder so she is definitely missed right now” said Liberty head coach Anne Donovan. “I know that this group has been there before and they all have their own experience and we’ll have to go to Atlanta and get it done”.
The Liberty will look to even the series up in Atlanta on Tuesday to force a third and final game in New York.