by Ed Easton Jr.
As the confetti hit the ground at Phillips Arena in Atlanta so did the New York Liberty’s hopes of winning their first WNBA championship. Cappie Pondexter’s team-high 36 points and 9 assists weren’t enough as the Liberty fell 105 – 93 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The Atlanta Dream are heading to their first WNBA Finals after only three seasons of exsistence. The team was led by 2009 Rookie of The Year Angel McCoughtry who poured in a WNBA playoff scoring record 42 points.
“It was just another game” said McCoughtry “I know I had to raise my level of intensity”.
McCoughtry had scored more than 20 points in the four straight Dream wins, serving as a catalyst for the team’s run from last to first in the East.
“Angel McCoughtry just really showed how good she is going to be and what a bright star she is already,” said Liberty head coach Anne Donovan.
The back-and-forth battle between McCoughtry and Pondexter was the main event as each star showcased everything they had to lead their teams.
“We’re both leaders on our teams,” Pondexter said describing the one on one battle “We expect it. She was in a great rhythm. She got to the foul line a lot. She did a great job in attacking our defense. She was aggressive from the beginning.”
McCoughtry showed her appreciation for the intense playoff battle saying “I really enjoyed it, The atmosphere has been great. This is what you play for.”
The Liberty got coring support from Essance Carson’s 20 points and Plenette Pierson who poured in 13 points before fouling out late in the game.
The Liberty struggled all game with their transition defense, allowing 25 fast-break points. Dream guard Coco Miller scored 19 points including a momentum changing three-point basket to open up the fourth quarter, breaking a 73 – 73 tie after the Liberty had fought back from 14 points down.
The Liberty were once again without leading rebounder Janel McCarville forced to watch from the bench, still suffering from a sprained ankle.
The Dream capitalized on their trips to the free throw line hitting 29 of 36 (80.6%) compared to the Liberty only converting 16 of 25 (64.0%). McCoughtry alone was 17 of 21 from the foul line as she constantly drew contact driving to the basket.
The Dream will move on to the WNBA Finals to face the mighty Seattle Storm in a best-of-5 series starting Sunday.
This was the Liberty’s 2nd loss in the Eastern Conference finals in 3 years after posting their best regular season record in franchise history 22 – 12.