You know it's a big basketball game in New York when Spike Lee is sitting courtside at MSG.
Last night, the New York Liberty beat the Washington Mystics 79-74 to win their series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.
Somewhere, Coach C. Vivian Stringer is watching these WNBA playoffs with pride. Seeing how many of her former Rutgers players are playing in the league now shows how much of a national powerhouse she has built at Rutgers. On the Liberty alone, there are three Scarlet Knights, Epiphanny Prince, Essence Carson, and Erica Wheeler.
Prince did not shoot particularly well in last night's game, missing ten of her first eleven shots, but big time players make big time plays when their team needs them. With the shot clock winding down and just twenty seconds left in the 4th quarter, Prince penetrated into the key and knocked down a fade away jumper to put the Liberty up by three, a deficit the Mystics would not overcome.
With last night's win, the top seeded Liberty advance to the Conference Finals to face the Indiana Fever. During the regular season, these two teams went head-to-head five times, with the Fever winning four of them. Although the Liberty have been the top ranked defense in the league, holding opponents to just 71 PPG, the Fever scored more than 80 points in each of their previous matchups this season. The dynamic offense of the Fever, led by Tamika Catchings, versus the Liberty's stout defense will be a key matchup to watch in this series.
The Liberty will also lean heavily on the veteran leadership of Essence Carson. At 29, she has seen her minutes dwindle, but as the only remaining player from the Liberty's last Conference Final series, her role is an important as ever. She has emphasized to her relatively inexperienced teammates to seize the moment. Of the original eight WNBA teams, the New York Liberty is the only one without a championship, something this 2015 squad hopes to change.
The Eastern Conference Finals will kick off tonight at 7pm on ESPN 2, a quick turnaround for the Liberty due to the Pope's visit to New York City. Be sure to tune in to see how these Scarlet Knights perform!