It comes down to tonight, one last game. The winner heads to the Eastern Conference Finals and the loser comes to grips that their 2015 season is officially over. The New York Liberty showed why they are the top seed in the East with a decisive win over the fourth seeded Mystics on Sunday afternoon. The Mystics showed why their one of the hardest teams to deal with in the league, by showing the heart and mental toughness to win a double-overtime game in Madison Square Garden last Friday. All the cliches now apply, this one is for all the marbles, everything’s on the line, where the rubber meets the road and many, many more. The Liberty host the Mystics tonight at Madison Square Garden at 7 pm Eastern in the all important Game 3.
Each of the firs two games of this series showed the strength of both teams, Washington with their balance and toughness in the Game 1 win. The heart and soul of their team, Ivory Latta hitting big shot after big shot. Game 2 should be dubbed as the “Tina Charles game”, she had five points at half time and then went crazy in the second half. The third quarter to be exact, she went on a 17-point rampage that was the deciding factor in the game, proving that in a series, no matter the length that star players can win a game.
”You win playoff games with rebounding, turnovers and free throws and we lost two of those (categories) very badly” – Mike Thibault, Mystics Head Coach
If the Mystics wish to continue their season, they have to complete a tall task tonight as the visiting team. They certainly have the talent to get it done, it’s just a matter of going out and executing. They can’t afford a slow start, they have to be the aggressors on both ends of the floor. In the Game 2 loss, there was a huge positive. The postseason arrival of one Tayler Hill, she hit six three-pointers in the loss.
Here’s the five things Washington must do to continue their season tonight in New York:
- Get the bigs going. Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson both made an impact in Game 1, their Game 2 performances weren’t anything to write home about. Coach Thibault doesn’t see his young post duo having two bad games back-to-back as they haven’t all season. They both must stay out of foul trouble, and work on keeping Charles from catching the ball in her spots. The last thing the Mystics want is for her to go unconscious for another long stretch in the deciding game of the series. The Liberty made a concerted effort to keep the ball out of the post when Washington had the ball, there’s a reason for that. The Mystics are at their best when their two All-Stars are engaged. The same goes for Kia Vaughn, that’s a great weapon at Washington’s disposal off the bench. Wouldn’t be a bad time to get her going either.
- Latta must lead the way. It’s no surprise that Washington is one of the youngest teams in the league, so the few vets on their roster play a huge role. Latta is the life blood of this team, they really feed of her energy and play. Most of all, her confidence. That was evident in that double-overtime victory, he team needs her game and her confidence more than ever if they wish to beat New York and advance.
- Tayler Hill. She’s had two consecutive good games, proving that she’s someone the Liberty must account for. It’s not just her offense, her defense on Epiphany Prince was a major factor in the Mystics cutting the once 20 point first half lead to just seven. I’m obviously not the coach, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lineup switch for this game or if Hill gets into the game as soon as possible. Her production has made it difficult for the Liberty when both she and Ivory are on the floor, they were only able to key in on one of them, New York chose Ivory.
- Take care of the ball. Washington must, I repeat, they must not turn the ball over. They did a great job of it in Game 1 and lost their way in Sunday’s game, those 14 turnovers played a huge role in that loss.
- The glass. The Liberty have won the battle on the glass in both games, which isn’t surprising as they’re a really good team on the glass. It’s on the Mystics to at least make that margin close, they lost it by just three in the Game 1 victory. They were beat by double digits in the Game 2 loss, a large reason was the Liberty owning the offensive glass, Carolyn Swords played a big role in that regard. We’ll see just how bad the Mystics want it by the conclusion of tonight’s game, a win on the glass would almost certainly guarantee a victory for the visitors.