Liberty-Storm Preview

The Associated Press

Now that the New York Liberty's lengthy road skid is in the past, they can focus on remaining in playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

The visiting Liberty look to record a fourth consecutive victory over the Seattle Storm, who will try to avoid a season-high fourth straight defeat overall Thursday night.

Tina Charles scored 31 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to help New York (9-13) snap an eight-game road slide Wednesday with a 66-64 victory over a Los Angeles team minus injured star Candace Parker. In their return from the All-Star break, the Liberty notched their first road victory since winning 75-54 at Connecticut on May 16 to open the season.

"Sometimes we have seasons like that," Charles said. "It's not going to be pretty. It's not how you start. It's how you finish. It's the second half of the season and we got the first one. It feels great."

Charles hit a jumper to give the Liberty a 66-62 lead with 1:08 to play, then blocked Jantel Lavender's shot on the Sparks' next possession and New York held on from there. The Liberty have won two in a row to move one-half game ahead of the Sun for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.

"Before the game, (coach Bill Laimbeer) said we need to take the rest of the season as if every game's a playoff game," said Charles, averaging 23.0 points and 12.7 rebounds in the last three games. "I took that to heart.

"Right now, we're in a good stand."

Charles had 15 points and 14 rebounds in the Liberty's 70-64 win over Seattle (9-16) on May 27.

The Storm are two games behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the West, having dropped three straight by a combined 58 points. Seattle allowed Minnesota, Connecticut and Phoenix to average 84.0 points and 51.5 percent shooting over that stretch.

The last two blowout losses were both at home, falling 86-63 to Connecticut on July 15 and letting the WNBA-leading Mercury shoot 53.8 percent in an 89-71 defeat Tuesday.

The Storm are averaging a league-low 70.3 points, including 64.7 during the three-game skid.

"We just have to get our minds back in it," forward Alysha Clark told the Storm's official website.

Seattle forward Crystal Langhorne had 22 points and nine rebounds against the Mercury. She finished with 13 points and 15 boards versus New York earlier this season.

Teammate Sue Bird scored 21 in that loss, and the All-Star guard has averaged 14.3 points in her last three home contests.

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