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Liberty can’t stop Diana Taurasi in loss to Mercury

The Liberty's Tina Charles controls the play against

The Liberty's Tina Charles controls the play against the Mercury at the Westchester County Center on Tuesday. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Tina Charles is sweating over the state of the Liberty’s season. It’s in dire need of a quick U-turn.

The Liberty tipped off against formidable Phoenix on Tuesday night at Westchester County Center. The home team arrived in 10th place in the WNBA standings, 10th in scoring and 10th in shooting out of 12 teams.

After falling to the Mercury at the Garden three weeks prior, the Liberty also dropped the rematch, 83-69. So the club fell to 4-9 after losing its third straight and fifth in the last six games, with all the setbacks by double digits.

“Oh, I’m very concerned,” said Charles, who led the Liberty with just 12 points, although she moved into 18th on the league’s all-time scoring list. “Me being moody is just because of that, because I know that we’re better than that . . . I’m just tired of losing.”

Besides not getting enough offense again, the Liberty didn’t get the defense to cool off the league’s all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi. The 36-year-old shooting guard put on a shooting show, scoring 27 points. She went 8-for-12, including 7-for-11 on threes.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Taurasi said. “The three-point line was open.”

DeWanna Bonner also drilled four threes on the way to 18 points for Phoenix (11-5), and Brittney Griner contributed 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. The Mercury converted 60.9 percent of its threes (14-for-23). Reserve Leilani Mitchell went 3-for-5.

“It’s tough,” coach Katie Smith said. “They’ve got shooters all over the place.”

Smith’s team cut an 18-point second-quarter deficit to two early in the third. But then Taurasi hit a three. The Liberty never did catch up.

“You just have to keep having confidence in yourself,” Charles said about spinning around the offensive woes.

When Taurasi nailed another three near the midpoint of the third, she was 8-for-8 from the floor, including her seven threes. The lead was up to 54-44.

Sugar Rodgers fouled Taurasi in the act from three-point range with 2.7 seconds left in the period and Taurasi converted all three free throws to make it 67-48.

“She’s a great player,” Rodgers said. “She does what she does.”

Phoenix opened the game with a 15-2 run. It was 36-18 before the Liberty got back in it, at least for a while.

Said Smith, “We need more from everybody right now when it comes to scoring.”

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