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Liberty tops San Antonio for 9th victory in a row

Tina Charles makes a move to the basket

Tina Charles makes a move to the basket in game against the Stars at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.  Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

The Liberty arrived at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Aug. 1 for the fourth game of a taxing five-game trip and fell to the team with the worst record in the WNBA. Those same Stars paid a visit to Madison Square Garden on Sept. 1 and played a different Liberty team.

San Antonio didn’t mail in the rematch Friday night, but Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince scored 16 points each as the Liberty won its regular-season home finale, 81-69. It was the team’s ninth straight victory overall and eighth straight at the Garden.

“We’ve come a long way,” Shavonte Zellous said. “I think you’re starting to see where our chemistry is starting to get better. Our defensive execution is getting better. Our offensive execution is getting better. There’s not one player on this team that’s living in a selfish moment.”

The Liberty, tied with the Connecticut Sun at 21-12 atop the Eastern Conference standings, can tie the franchise record for consecutive wins in the finale at Dallas on Sunday. Then it will have a first-round bye before hosting a second-round matchup on Sept. 10, with the winner advancing. It’s still to be determined whether it will be the third or fourth seed.

Should the Liberty reach the semis, it faces a conflict. It would play Games 1 and 2 at Minnesota or Los Angeles, then come home for Game 3. That’s scheduled for Sept. 17, but the Garden already is booked for a Paul McCartney concert.

Ousted by an ex-Beatle. The game would be moved to Westchester County Center in White Plains. But first things first, which was Friday night’s game.

The Stars (7-26) trailed 65-63 early in the fourth quarter, but Prince hit a couple of jumpers and Kiah Stokes scored twice from in close during a 12-2 run that made it a 77-65 game with 5:54 left.

“We didn’t play with the discipline and the consistency that we played with in the first three quarters,” said San Antonio coach Vickie Johnson, who received 18 points from Kelsey Plum.

The Liberty, which committed a season-low five turnovers, led 40-37 at the half. Zellous was scoreless at that point, but she scored all 10 of her points in the third quarter, and it was a 65-60 game heading into the fourth.

“I don’t think we played our best game,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. “But we gutted it out.”

Bird atop career assists list

Syosset native Sue Bird broke the WNBA’s all-time assists record Friday night, passing Ticha Penicheiro with her 2,600th career assist. In Seattle’s 110-106 overtime loss in Washington, Bird moved ahead of Penicheiro in the first quarter when she passed to Carolyn Swords cutting through the lane. Bird finished with 13 assists, and her total now is 2,610.

— AP

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