Liberty secure playoff spot with win over Lynx

Lois Elfman | 8/24/2017, 6:17 p.m.
“We know who we are physically,” said New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer after the Liberty’s fifth consecutive win, a ...

“We know who we are physically,” said New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer after the Liberty’s fifth consecutive win, a 70-61 victory over the Minnesota Lynx. “We know who we are role-wise. We know who we are as a basketball team.”

“We’re solid across the board; we have lots of weapons,” he added. “We play good defense. It’s a matter of the energy level and the commitment to mental toughness and mental determination of executing both offensively and defensively.”

The Liberty were behind in the first half but managed to keep it relatively close. In the third quarter, the team kept pulling within one point of the Lynx but were unable to pull ahead. The tide finally turned at the end of the third quarter, when the Liberty took the lead and built on it throughout the fourth quarter.

Laimbeer said at halftime he challenged the players to “be who we are now.” The game was there for the taking if they brought the right energy and intensity. A key point was containing Lynx center Sylvia Fowles. The Lynx were without post player Rebekkah Brunson and guard Lindsay Whalen because of injury.

With this win, New York clinched a spot in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Laimbeer said mental toughness will play a major role going forward.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Liberty post player Kiah Stokes. “They’re the No. 1 team in the league right now. We knew that they’re down a couple of players, so they were going to bring the intensity. We made sure we matched that and gave the extra effort. We came out a little slow, but throughout the game we picked it up a notch, and that’s how we were able to pull it out in the end.”

She added, “We’re a team that can play defense, get after loose balls that can play tough and physical and execute on offense as well. But we have to be focused. It’s not something that comes natural. We all have to individually lock in every single day, every practice, every play in order to be the beat the best teams.”

The Liberty returns to Madison Square Garden for two games this weekend: the Washington Mystics Friday night and the Chicago Sky Sunday afternoon.