Are the Liberty ready for the playoffs?
TRACY JUSAY Special to the AmNews | 9/16/2011, 10:47 a.m.
The big question: Are the New York Liberty going into the WNBA playoffs ready?
They stumbled in their final game of the regular season with a 69-63 loss to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. Two busloads of fans made the trip to Connecticut to support New York, but the team's efforts still fell short. Losses aren't something the fourth-seeded Liberty will dwell on as they shift into playoff mode this week.
On Thursday night, they will open the first round on the road in a best-of-three series against the top-seeded Indiana Fever. Head coach John Whisenant is confident his players will be ready and hopes Cappie Pondexter won't be hindered by a sore ankle.
"We just want to be playing well and get everybody healthy," he said. "Cappie has been playing on one wheel, and we've had to play without her being able to explode off that ankle. We're hopeful she'll get back to 100 percent and get her rhythm back for the playoffs."
The key to the Liberty winning the series will depend on how well they play. After a season full of ups and downs, winning won't be easy, but it's not improbable. The Liberty hosted the Fever in their final home game of the season, recording an 83-75 victory behind a combined 45 points from Pondexter, Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn.
While a repeat effort from the trio would give the Liberty an edge in scoring, having an advantage in other areas such as rebounding and points in the paint would complete the formula for victory.
According to Whisenant, center Kara Braxton is more familiar with his system now and "can be depended upon as a big body in the post." Having Braxton's presence inside along with Vaughn's could very well be the Liberty's weapon in this series.
Most importantly, the Liberty will need to lock down on defense from the start in order to dictate the tone of the game. "We've shown the ability to beat what have been the best teams, record-wise at least, in both the East and West, and we've done it here at the end of our season," said Whisenant. "There's no question in our minds that when we play properly, we have a chance to win."
After playing Game 1 in Indiana, the Liberty play Game 2 on Saturday at the Prudential Center.