Photo by Christine Troyke
ATLANTA — The New York Liberty’s awful performance in their last game embarrassed Cappie Pondexter.
She was determined not to let it happen again.
“I brought a great deal of energy tonight, which has been inconsistent with us,” Pondexter said. “I feel like when we play with a lot of energy it allows us to play both ends of the floor the way we really want to.”
Pondexter had 14 points and a season-high 13 assists and Essence Carson added 14 points in the New York Liberty’s 73-60 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night.
The Dream dropped their second straight game with Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA’s leading scorer and shot blocker, injured and unable to play.
Sancho Lyttle and Lindsey Harding each finished with 13 points for Atlanta (4-7). Lyttle pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
New York (4-7) had plenty of incentive after last Friday’s debacle at Connecticut, a 42-point loss that was the worst in team history and included 34-point halftime deficit that was the largest in league history.
The Liberty, who snapped a two-game skid, never trailed after Leilani Mitchell pulled up for a 15-foot fast-break jumper to make it 13-12 late in the first.
“We were so hungry for a win,” Mitchell said. “We were just playing harder. We were taking it easy in the last couple of practices trying to save our legs for this game.”
New York went up 36-30 on Pondexter’s 19-foot fadeaway in transition in the final minute of the second period.
The Dream shot a season-low 35.3 percent. Their five bench players combined to go 6 for 25 from the field, including a 3-for-11 performance from Cathrine Kraayeveld.
Lyttle, Harding and Jessica Moore each finished with three turnovers as Atlanta dropped to 0-4 this season when trailing at halftime.
Now the Dream can only hope they won’t have to play without Harding, who fell backward while defending Carson with 4:40 remaining and had to be helped off the court with an apparent right leg injury.
But even with McCoughtry and Harding at full strength, Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors knows her team can’t afford to keep missing so many layups.
“I thought we did better going to the offensive boards, but we’d rebound and we wouldn’t put the shot down,” Meadors said. “We have to make shots.”
The Dream never got closer than eight after Armintie Price’s 15-footer made it 65-57 with 5:42 remaining.
It was a second straight tough ending for Atlanta, which lost at home Sunday to Connecticut despite not trailing until the game’s final 3.1 seconds.
Kia Vaughn, who scored 12 points for the Liberty, hit a 14-foot jumper from the left baseline with 9:33 remaining to give New York its first double-digit lead at 60-49. Nicole Powell’s turnaround jumper nearly two minutes later gave New York its biggest lead at 14.
The Liberty improved to 2-4 on the road.
Atlanta, which fell to 4-4 at home, doesn’t know how long McCoughtry will be out with a strained left knee ligament. She sat on the bench and encouraged her teammates, but was not in uniform.
“Not having Angel puts them in a tough situation,” Pondexter said. “This gave us the upper hand because we didn’t have to focus on her, and we all played loosely and freely. You could tell we just really wanted to win.”
Liberty coach John Whisenant credited Pondexter with spreading the ball around and getting her teammates involved offensively.
“When she plays like she did tonight and we play good team defense, we can win games on the road,” Whisenant said. “We demand that she does her part on defense as well as offense. We don’t have any other options. She has to perform well for the Liberty to do well. It’s that simple.”