Tina Charles and Kia Nurse score a combined 50 points against a tough Seattle defensive front
On Tuesday, the first returns of the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game voting were revealed. As of Tuesday, Tina Charles sat at the 13th spot garnering around 8.5k votes. Teammate Kia Nurse earned almost 6.5k votes, positioning her at 23rd place in the polling.
But on Wednesday, Charles and Nurse made their case for spots on the 2019 All-Star squads, carrying the Liberty to a hard-earned 84-83 victory over the defensively sound Storm, improving the Liberty’s record to 6-7.
While the fan contributions don’t only determine the All-Star participants, their votes do represent 50 percent of the final starter tally. The other half of the vote will be determined by WNBA players and a group of media including writers and broadcasters.
While Charles’ numbers have been satisfactory this season, a lower shooting percentage has left some concerns. But for Nurse, however, she’s been praised for transforming her play in between in freshman and sophomore seasons. I noticed it in the season opener. She explodes off transition and exerts much more physicality on the defensive side of the ball. She’s a firecracker.
“I think Nurse has worked on her game during the offseason, her pick and rolls, shooting her pull-ups, obviously she’s a three baller, and finishing around the rim,” head coach Katie Smith said after the victory in Seattle. “She continues to work and expand her game and get better.”
Wednesday’s final outcome against a shorthanded Storm roster confirms that:
1) Kia Nurse is clutch and can set the tone on her own,
2) anyone who questions Tina Charles’ will is foolish and
3) Charles and Nurse are the respective 2nd and 8th leading scorers in the league. With smaller home crowds at Westchester County Center, fans across the league need to step up in other cities and recognize what Nurse and Charles are doing.
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The first quarter belonged to Nurse. She scored 11 points while shooting 4-5 and stepped up when early shots weren’t falling and early turnovers altered the tempo. Her first two of the afternoon came on a shake-and-bake jumper which tripped up Natasha Howard.
Charles set up Nurse on three scores in the 1st, which included a superbly executed pick and roll, a three-ball and a laser pass to Nurse in the paint that she was able to lay in with ease. The comfort between Charles and Nurse early reminded me of the types of play calling that worked in the season opener against the Fever.
The longball was working well for Nurse against Seattle as she received a side pass from a stuffed Brittany Boyd with a minute and a half left in the 2nd. With two seconds remaining on the shot clock, she drained a three from well beyond the arc to give New York a four-point lead. Boyd would dish to Nurse three other times, as the point guard would end the day with ten total assists.
Charles had a sloppy first half as she turned the ball over three times on steals from Howard and Mercedes Russell. Charles had 8 points, three assists and four boards to accompany the difficulty she had with Seattle’s highly ranked defensive front.
After halftime and a third-quarter 10 point deficit, Charles had snapped. She wanted this game. In the second half, the five-time All-Star was the most efficient we’ve seen her this season, shooting 7-12 from the field.
Something I’ve focused on this season is how New York can use Charles without over employing her resources. This season especially, Charles has been most effective when she doesn’t take the entire load on her shoulders. But what changed against Seattle?
Charles is just as much of a listener as she is a legend, and filling the holes that Katie Smith saw in her game made the difference against the Storm. In addition to shooting the ball with more gusto and accuracy, Charles opened up the floor for herself, detecting gaps where she could find them.
She was aggressive in the lane. She had an eagle eye on the court.
On Wednesday that was clear from her ability in the fourth to stay patient, look for holes in the defense and persist through pounding the paint. Howard and Alysha Clark stuffed Charles with a little over a minute left in regulation, but the veteran opened up the double team and took a ridiculous one-foot hook shot that was nothing but net.
Charles almost outscored the entire Storm offensive in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points to Seattle’s 13. Nurse was clutch in the first half as she and understands that it is integral for the rest of New York to step up to take some pressure off Charles.
“It’s part of our job on the outside to step up and allow [Charles] to get a break once in a while and if we knock down some shots it loosens up the defense on her,” Nurse said in White Plains in the Liberty’s win against the Lynx. “And she goes back to scoring buckets for us.”
A fun fact for Nurse stans: she finished the day with 518 total career points, as her 24 put her over the threshold into the 500 club.
But Liberty faithful, you’ve got less than a week to right this current wrong. The All-Star polls close at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The ball is in your court as your actions speak louder than just tweeting, even if it is #libertyloud.