NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The New York Liberty's fast start was too much for the Atlanta Dream to overcome.
Nicole Powell scored 20 points and the Liberty beat the Dream 91-69 on Wednesday for their fourth straight win and sixth in seven games.
``From the moment the ball tipped off we could feel the energy,' New York's Cappie Pondexter said. ``We didn't come out lax. We came out with a lot of energy. That was the difference.'
The Liberty (8-5) took control with a tiebreaking 11-0 run in the first quarter. They increased the lead to 17 by halftime and then 25 in the third quarter.
Kia Vaughn had 14 points, Leilani Mitchell scored 12 and Plenette Pierson 11 for New York. Pondexter and Quanitra Hollingsworth each added 10 points.
Powell, who also had seven rebounds, shot 7 for 8 from the field, including 5 for 5 on 3-pointers.
``Nicole, the last three games has been exceptional,' Pondexter said. ``I think her energy on both ends of the court has made us a better team without question. She's bringing it now ... she's playing out of her mind like the Nicole that we've seen in the past.'
Angel McCoughtry scored 17 points, Coco Miller had 15 and Armintie Price added 12 for defending Eastern Conference champion Atlanta (3-9), which has lost six of eight.
``I thought the Liberty came out and shot the ball extremely well and I think it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit,' Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. ``I hope we can get back on the winning track. We struggled, we didn't play well at all today and we didn't defend well. Those are the things we have to have. ... We have to come out with more intensity and more effort.'
The Liberty scored six consecutive points, capped by Pondexter's fast-break layup, to take a 64-43 lead with 5:42 left in the third. Another 6-0 run, topped by a free throw from Hollingsworth 4:11 later, made it 75-50 - New York's biggest advantage of the game.
Trailing by 24 after three quarters, the Dream cut the deficit in half with a 12-0 run to pull to 77-65 on Price's free throws with 4:15 remaining in the game. Vaughn's free throws 15 seconds later ended the Liberty's scoring drought.
Powell's jumper with 2:49 to go in the game was New York's first field goal since Mitchell's 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining in the third. The Liberty missed 14 consecutive field-goal attempts in between, including their first 13 of the fourth when Liberty coach John Whisenant tried to get his starters some extra rest.
``I was trying to let our young players get some experience but they couldn't quite finish it off without the vets,' he said.
Pierson left midway through the third quarter with an injured left knee and did not return. She fell after battling for an offensive rebound and was facedown for several minutes. She was helped off the court and to the locker room by trainers. After the game, Pierson said her knee had a ``little sprain' with some swelling and soreness.
New York led 54-37 at the break, its highest scoring first half of the season and the franchise record at home. The Liberty, who shot 57 percent (21 for 37) in the first 20 minutes, finished at 46 percent and evened the season series with the Dream at 2-2, with one matchup remaining at Atlanta on Aug. 2.
New York's frontcourt of Vaughn, Powell, Pierson and Hollingsworth outscored Atlanta's Erika de Souza, McCoughtry, Alison Bales and Courtney Paris 55-29.
``Our intensity level and defense just stepped it up and got them frustrated and got in their heads and made things a little bit easier for us,' Pierson said. ``Our post players played great post defense.'
After New York led by 14 early in the second quarter, Atlanta cut the deficit to six with 7 1/2 minutes to go in the period. But Pondexter followed with a layup, Powell hit a 3 and Mitchell had a layup to push New York's lead back to 13 about 1 1/2 minutes later. Powell's 3 with under 2 minutes to go in the second quarter extended the Liberty's advantage to 49-32.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved