July 24, 2014

Tina Charles forced a trade to her native New York prior to last season and envisioned guiding the Liberty back to respectability.

The acquisition of another New Yorker is beginning to pay off as well.

The Liberty are off to their best start in 14 years and seek a fourth consecutive victory when they visit the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.

Charles played four seasons for Connecticut before demanding a trade and being shipped to New York in April 2014. She averaged 17.4 points last season, but the Liberty failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year.

New York (10-5), though, hasn't started this well since being 16-5 in 2001 and appears poised to end that postseason drought. It has won six of seven, with Charles averaging 19.9 points in that stretch.

"I know what I mean to this team and the respect and confidence my teammates have in me," said Charles, voted by the fans to start in the All-Star Game. "I just want to keep going. Every night, that's what I expect of myself."

Charles finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday's 75-73 win at Phoenix, but Epiphanny Prince stole the show late. She scored on a driving layup with 30.2 seconds remaining to put the Liberty up two before the Mercury tied it with 3.8 left.

Prince then was fouled with 1.7 seconds remaining and made the deciding free throws. She scored a season-high 17 points in her fifth game after missing the start of the season playing for the Russian national team.

The sixth-year point guard, who grew up in Brooklyn, was acquired from Chicago in February for Cappie Pondexter, who had been the face of the franchise for the last five seasons.

Prince is averaging 13.2 points since joining the Liberty, and she'll go head-to-head with Sue Bird as the Storm (5-12) look to win a third straight contest.

Bird had nine points and 12 assists - two shy of her career best - in Saturday's 86-73 victory over Atlanta, helping Seattle win back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"I think we've had some good practices and I think our players came in focused," coach Jenny Boucek said. "I think they are starting to develop a trust for our systems and one another, really helping each other and creating for each other on both ends of the court."

Alysha Clark scored a career-high 14 points but Boucek was more impressed with her defensive effort. The Storm forced 19 turnovers, seven committed by Dream star Angel McCoughtry with Clark guarding her the majority of the contest.

Clark could be tasked with stopping Charles as the Storm look to avoid a sixth straight loss to the Liberty. Charles scored 18 points and had the go-ahead basket with 23 seconds left in New York's 84-80 overtime road win in the last meeting July 24.

The Storm traded Renee Montgomery to Minnesota on Monday for fellow guard Monica Wright, who recently had arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. Montgomery is averaging 7.1 points and 3.0 assists.

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