Sun-Liberty Preview

Even with Essence Carson in the lineup, the New York Liberty weren't able to stop the Connecticut Sun in their season opener. The adjustment to playing without her, though, has gone well for at least one game. New York looks to win its second straight since losing its leading scorer when it hosts Connecticut on Friday night. Carson was averaging 17.7 points before tearing her left ACL in a 75-56 loss to Atlanta on Friday, prematurely ending her season after a promising start under new coach Bill Laimbeer. She entered 2013 having averaged 8.6 points in her first five years with New York. "(She was) off to a good start, but that's the reality of professional sports. You have to move on," Laimbeer said. ''We'll still play the same strategy on defense, the same structure that we have. Nothing changes.'' The Liberty (3-2) bounced back Sunday, as Cappie Pondexter and Plenette Pierson scored 17 points apiece in a 76-67 win over the Dream. Veteran Katie Smith, in her first season with the team, started in place of Carson and played solid defense as New York held Atlanta to 36.4 percent shooting. ''That's one of the reasons I got Katie Smith,'' Laimbeer said. ''She can guard anybody from the 1 to the 5. She also sets the tone defensively for the rest of the players. If a 39-year-old plays that hard every minute she's on the floor, mentally and physically, that's going to demand that of the rest of the players also.'' Pondexter scored 23 points and Carson added 14 in the first meeting with Connecticut on May 25, but New York struggled to contain the Sun combo of Kara Lawson and reigning MVP Tina Charles. Lawson netted 23 points and Charles finished with 19 and 13 boards in an 81-69 victory. Charles gave Indiana fits Wednesday, scoring 30 points - one off her career high - and adding 10 rebounds in a 73-61 win. She went 13 for 17 from the field to tie the franchise record for field goals made as the Sun shot 50.8 percent. The 6-foot-4 center had averaged 24.0 shot attempts over her previous four contests. ''They were trying to get me to force shots which I have been doing in all of the games, but I was patient, and I was able to find the open man and it definitely worked for us," said Charles, second in the league with 21.6 points per game and third with 12.0 rebounds a contest. Lawson had only 12 points - 5.0 below her season average - and went 5 of 14 from the field, but Connecticut (2-3) ended a three-game skid by winning for the first time since beating the Liberty. ''It's not impossible to come back from a rough start, but we don't want to dig a hole too big,'' Lawson said. Charles has averaged 21.0 points in her last four games versus New York, including a two-game sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.