The New York Liberty clinched a playoff spot despite coming up short against the Tulsa Shock earlier this week. After that loss, they’re all the more eager to go into the postseason on a winning note.
The Liberty look to avoid a third consecutive defeat as they close out the regular season Saturday against the visiting Shock, who can extend their longest winning streak in three seasons and sweep this home-and-home set.
Despite a 14-19 record, New York earned its third straight playoff berth Thursday when Chicago was eliminated with a loss to Atlanta. The Liberty could have clinched the postseason spot on their own but fell 78-66 to Tulsa.
Getting back home could help New York regroup. The Liberty have taken four of five at the Prudential Center, where they’ve outscored the Shock (9-23) by an average of 19.0 points during a three-game winning streak in the series.
“We need to go into the playoffs feeling good,” said guard Cappie Pondexter, who ranks near the top of the league with 20.5 points per game. “It’s our last regular season home game so we need to give our fans something as we head in to the playoffs.”
New York, set to square off with Eastern Conference champion Connecticut in the semifinals, knows it needs to pick up the pace. The Liberty averaged 74.3 points during a season high-tying three-game winning streak but have since been limited to 66 apiece in the back-to-back losses.
“We have just got to focus on our stuff,” forward Kara Braxton said. “We need to click on all cylinders, rebound the ball, we’ve got to put in easy chippers, box out and contain pressure - which is a lot of stuff but we are going to work on it the next couple of days before we go up to Connecticut.”
Tulsa, in contrast, is playing its best basketball in a long while. The Shock have won three in a row for their longest run since 2009, when the franchise was located in Detroit.
With the year coming to a close, Tulsa is starting to look towards 2013. One of its biggest offseason priorities is bringing back guard Temeka Johnson, who’s averaging 12.4 points in her first year with the club.
“It’s been a very difficult season, something I’ve never experienced,” said Johnson, who scored a season-high 26 points Thursday. “We’ve lived the highs and lows but you always want to make a difference in terms of turning things around. There’s an upside (to this organization) and I may just be around to see it.”
The Shock close out the season Sunday at Indiana.
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