Liberty are huge underdogs as they close out road trip

The New York Liberty hoped their offseason moves would give them a fresh look and young legs. With only one returning starter, however, they have struggled with team chemistry during a season-opening four-game road trip.

New York looks to end its trip on a positive note Thursday when they face the Detroit Shock.

Books have the Shock as huge 14 1/2-point favorites with the total set at 149.

After Tuesday`s 91-70 loss to the Indiana Fever, the Liberty (0-3) remain the lone winless team in the Eastern Conference. They have struggled following the departures of more than half the members of last year`s team, including Vickie Johnson, to free agency.

The impact of losing Johnson, New York`s all-time leader in points, rebounds, games and minutes played, has been evident on both ends of the court.

The Liberty have allowed at least 91 points in each of their three games while losing by an average of 24.3 points. On Tuesday, they fell behind 51-34 at the half after a 32-point second quarter by the Fever. The Liberty cut Indiana`s lead to 60-51 on a Becky Hammon basket with 3:46 left in the third quarter, but Indiana responded with an 8-0 run and held a 72-56 lead at the end of the period.

``I think we`re just playing with a lack of emotion,`` said Hammon, who scored 20 points. ``I think you could see in the second half, we played with a little more fire. We have got to learn to come out of the gates like that and be more disciplined.``

New York is shooting just 36.7 percent from the field this season - tied for worst in the league - and opponents are shooting 49.1 percent, the second-highest total in the WNBA. Hammon and Shameka Christon are the only constant sources of offense for the Liberty, averaging 15.7 and 15.3 points, respectively.

``I think we are a young team that only seems to play well in spurts,`` said Kelly Schumacher, who is averaging 8.0 rebounds. ``We have all the talent in the world in this locker room. We need to quit making silly mistakes.``

The Shock (2-1), which won three of four matchups against the Liberty last season, rallied for a 77-73 overtime win Saturday over the Connecticut Sun. Katie Smith forced the extra period by hitting a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation.

``Obviously we needed a 3,`` said Smith, who finished with 23 points. ``I had a decent look at first. I got the ball to Cheryl (Ford) and I thought she was going to shoot it, but I got it back and tried to get a little space, and it went through the bucket and that is all she wrote.``

Smith is averaging a team-high 17.7 points and 4.3 assists and helped Detroit overcome a poor performance Saturday, when it made just 36.2 percent (25-for-69) of its shots.

``It was a game of wills between two fine basketball teams,`` Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. ``At times it was pretty, and at times it was ugly, but the bottom line was it was a very competitive game.``

The Shock have outrebounded their opponents 85-60 in the last two games. Cheryl Ford, who is averaging 15.0 points and a team-high 11.0 rebounds, has totaled 35 points and 25 rebounds her last two games while recording double-doubles.

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