Sun beat Liberty to reach East finals
NEWARK, N.J. — Kara Lawson didn’t get discouraged after missing some 3-point shots she felt she should have made. She knew she would hit some if she kept shooting.
Tina Charles had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Lawson scored 15 points — all on 3s, including two late in the fourth quarter — as the Connecticut Sun closed with a 14-0 run to beat the New York Liberty 75-62 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
“I had some looks in the second half and I was missing them. I don’t usually miss those,” Lawson said. “I kept telling them on the bench ‘there’s one coming.’ I didn’t know there were two coming.”
Lawson hit a 3 with 3:58 left start the Sun’s game-ending run. She was fouled and converted the free throw for the four-point play that put the Sun ahead for good, 65-62.
Plenette Pierson had just rallied New York from a five-point deficit, scoring with 4:20 left to put the Liberty ahead 62-61.
After Jones hit a jumper with just under 3 minutes remaining to push Connecticut’s advantage to six, Lawson made another 3 to make it 70-62.
Asjha Jones scored 18 points to help the Sun complete the two-game sweep.
“When it was time to step up all of the best players stepped up tonight,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. “Our three All-Star players stepped up. It was terrific, but we had great performances from a lot of people. It was as ugly start that you can get that nobody would like to watch, but one of the best things about this team is we hung in there on the road.”
Thibault kept reminding his team about the importance of rebounding. The Sun allowed New York 17 offensive rebounds in the series opener in Connecticut on Thursday night. They outrebounded the Liberty 44-28 in Game 2..
“Point of emphasis from Coach,” Lawson said, “and Tina gets 14 rebounds.”
Thibault added: “If you really want to know why Tina is the MVP of the league, just watch a tape of the second half.”
The Sun will next face the winner of the Atlanta-Indiana series, which the Dream lead 1-0 heading into Sunday’s game at home. Connecticut hadn’t won a playoff series since 2006, when they defeated Washington in the East semifinals to advance.
Cappie Pondexter scored 20 points to lead New York.
“They are a great team and played well all year,” Pondexter said. “Tina, the MVP of the league, played outstanding. Asjha made key buckets in the third quarter that gave them a run.”
New York scored the game’s first 12 points and Connecticut missed its first 12 shots from the field. The Sun’s first points came on Jones’ two free throws with 5:27 remaining in the first period.
The Liberty led by 16 in the second before Connecticut used a 14-0 run to cut the lead to 27-25.
New York led 33-27 at halftime, holding Connecticut to 29 percent shooting (10-for-34).
The Liberty scored the first four points of the third quarter to extend the lead to 10 points.
However, the Sun used a 17-6 run, capped by Jones’ turnaround bank shot, to take their first lead — 44-43 — with 5:12 left in the third. Jones scored 12 in the period.
“We started out well, strong, a lot of energy,” Pondexter said. “They made adjustments at halftime and I think the depth that they had wore on us.”
Essence Carson scored with 8.6 seconds to go in the period to give the Liberty a 52-50 lead after three.
“They have a lot of good players and they are very hard to guard,” New York coach John Whisenant said.
Renee Montgomery hit a 3 for Connecticut with 8:30 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Connecticut a 55-52 lead.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Jones said. “It would have been easy to fold early. Their defense was smothering. What a difference a year makes. We stayed with it.”
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