Three Takeaways: Liberty win eight straight and lock down a top four playoff spot

The New York Liberty picked up another win and head into a five-day break with a winning streak. Today, the Liberty retired Chicago by 30 points for their eighth straight win.  The win ensures the Liberty will have a first round bye and will finish no lower than fourth place this season.Here are three other takeaways from the 92-62 victory on Back-to-School Day at Madison Square Garden.

Important bench minutes

Charles posted 22 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes of play against Chicago.  Her first bucket of the game put in sole possession of 20th in all-time league points at 4,738, Chamique Holdsclaw (4,716). Both Bria Hartley and Epiphanny Prince dropped 11 points in the win. The Liberty also got 43 of their 92 points from the bench, led by Kiah Stokes with her fourth double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds).

“We got a good win,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer after the game.  Tonight with a convincing lead established early, New York was able to rest players like Charles and Kia Vaughn while giving extended minutes to players like Rebecca Allen and Amanda Zahui B.

Rebecca Allen contributed nine points in nearly 22 minutes tonight.  Allen has noticeably improved on the defensive end this season. “From training camp, it’s just been one of those focuses,” the Australian forward told The Summitt after the win. She added, “defense is not about skill it’s about effort … that’s why I’ve tried to lock in a bit more.” Allen added three steals to her stats line tonight.

Zahui B. posted eight points and six rebounds in just under ten minutes of play.  “Whenever our names are called, we [have] to be ready,” shared the center from the University of Minnesota. Both Laimbeer and Charles constantly remind the team to be ready to play your part.  Tonight, Zahui B. got to show her ability to grab boards on the defensive end, while also going 4-7 from the floor.

Chicago’s loss is a Phoenix gain

With the loss to New York today, the Phoenix Mercury earn their fifth consecutive playoff appearance and the ninth in franchise history. Chicago is not eliminated from playoff contention just yet, despite helping Phoenix advance to the postseason.  After today’s game in New York, the Sky are two games back of Seattle in the eighth and final playoff spot.

After today’s game in New York, the Sky are two games back of Seattle in the eighth and final playoff spot. Chicago will be watching tonight’s game in Seattle hoping Phoenix can return the favor. The Sky will take fate into their own hands at home Wednesday night against the Dallas Wings.

Not in the clear

Despite Charles becoming the 20th all-time highest scorer in league history, clinching a top four finish or even a third consecutive 20+ win season for a franchise record, the Liberty are not content.

“Franchise this, franchise that,” said Laimbeer, “The only thing that matters is there’s no championship banner hanging.” As a franchise and as a team, the Liberty are past regular season goals.  The only regular season bench marks that matter now are playoff berths and seeding.  For the second year, New York has earned a first round bye. As fate would have it, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs (Phoenix) last season clinched a spot due to their win tonight.

Despite that or anything else, the team is solely focused on bettering their game.  “We write on the board before every game, it’s a 40-minute game,” said Zahui B. Playing every game to the last second and sticking to the game plan throughout every game is what New York looks to do.  Unlike last season,

Unlike last year, the last few games of the season matter for seeds one through eight.  Playoff positioning looks to be coming down to the wire. Nevertheless, Laimbeer has his team focused on their own affairs. You have to imagine that moving past the second round and getting to WNBA Finals is on the agenda. Should the Liberty get to the WNBA Finals this year, it would the fifth time in program history, and the first appearance since 2002.

New York returns to action Friday against San Antonio and finishes the regular season September 3 in Dallas.