Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer spent much of Saturday night's first half against the Tulsa Shock using his hands: to bury his face, to throw in the air in frustration, to place on his hips while wearing a "what's going on?" expression.
This is a Liberty team that prides itself on its defense, that entered holding opponents to a WNBA-best 38 percent shooting from the field. It's born from what Laimbeer calls a "peer pressure" on the hardwood that starts with rookie Kiah Stokes clogging the middle and continues with Tina Charles, who Laimbeer said is "playing the best defense of her career."
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But that wasn't the case in the Liberty's 81-76 loss Saturday night. Tulsa snapped a 10-game losing streak.
A lackadaisical defensive effort through the first two quarters hindered the Liberty's chances as it tried to mount a comeback in the fourth. Odyssey Sims scored 27 points for Tulsa.
The Liberty dropped to 16-7 but still owns a two-game lead over the Chicago Sky for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Laimbeer chalked up the loss to being mentally and physically tired a day after beating the Sun, 90-78, in Connecticut.
"We've been pushing, pushing, pushing," he said. "It was a perfect storm for us. We're a tired basketball team right now. [Friday] night took a lot out of us. You saw all the loose balls we didn't get. We were a step slow on everything."
Brittany Boyd, the ninth overall selection out of the University of California, scored 13 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as she singlehandedly brought the Liberty and the Garden crowd back into the game.
"Boyd really put on a show out there," Laimbeer said. "Energized everybody."
Boyd converted two free throws to make it 81-76 with 21 seconds left. After the Liberty fouled Riquna Williams and she missed two free throws, Candice Wiggins was fouled on a three-point shot with 15 seconds left. But she missed all three attempts.
"You're going to have games like this, and you just hope you can push through it," Laimbeer said. "We couldn't tonight. [Tulsa] came in foaming at the mouth."
It took five minutes for the Shock (11-14) to build an 18-6 lead, as it started the game shooting 88 percent.
Laimbeer sat his starters from midway through the first quarter until midway through the second. The Liberty trailed 46-35 at halftime.
"We just didn't have it tonight," Laimbeer said. "Especially defensively.
"We had a setback. It happens. How we push from here will show what we're made of."