When you’re losing, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Each mistake is amplified, the margin for error is non-existent, and every loss adds on to that feeling of dread. When you’re in a rut, everything becomes more difficult and it takes everything you can to finally get out of it.
In pregame, Sandy Brondello was asked about the team playing fast while not playing too fast and rushing their offence:
“We have such a compact season, and when we’re shorthanded with players, it’s run with opportunity when we can. See the advantage, if not flow into our stuff and make sure we’re good to great.”
And with that the New York Liberty hosted the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night at Barclays Center. The team got off to a quick 11-0 lead to begin the game as the defense made life difficult on the Fever. The Fever settled in and used an amazing 33-17 second quarter burst to go into halftime with a 47-40 lead. They went into intermission in style thanks to this halfcourt heave from Danielle Robinson:
After the break, the Fever got the lead as large as 12 before the Liberty fought back. They went on a 13-0 run to regain the lead before the lead seen back and forth early into the fourth. Natasha Howard hit a three to tie game at 68 and sparked a game clinching 9-0 run that was punctuated by this Rebecca Allen three pointer that had the crowd on its feet.
This possession deep in the fourth quarter exemplifies everything Liberty fans are hoping for. Utilizing Dolson’s decision making skills in the pick and roll, forcing the defense to react, and winding up with a clean look from three for one of your best shooters is textbook basketball and something Liberty fans should be excited to watch more of as the team builds chemistry. You can see how dynamic the offense is when the players take their time, adjust to the coverages thrown at them by the opponent, and find the open shooters. Brondello mentioned playing with pace and not playing rushed, and tonight was a perfect example of that.
A moment of silence
Prior to the start of this contest, the team held a moment of silence due to the most recent wave of mass shootings across the United States.
Early Wednesday evening, news broke that a gunman in Tulsa, Oklahoma killed three people inside of a hospital. In Pittson, Pennsylvania, there were reports of a shooting at a Walmart. And in Los Angeles, California, a 10th grader was shot outside of his high school. It feels as if gun violence in the United States has gotten worse and it’s on legislators to figure something out to ensure our communities are safe. There’s no time to waste.
Fixing past mistakes
In the first meeting, the Fever obliterated the Liberty on the glass, 57-33. It was one of the biggest reasons Indy was able to come away with the win on the evening. Tonight, the Liberty fixed that and won the rebound matchup 39-33. We asked Brondello about that in the post game and she said:
“It’s a mindset. It’s doing the little things well and it’s everyone, not just the post players because we switched a lot, too. It’s just having a physical mentality and finishing plays because it’s been an Achilles heel for us a little bit. Hard to get out and run when you have to take it out of bounds every time. There’s second chance opportunities, they were getting too many. Keep talking about it, keep talking about it, just gotta do it. It’s just consistency in that area. We didn’t let it happen again, so hats off to [Stef Dolson] and [Natasha Howard]. They did a great job.”
Completing possessions on defense is incredibly important. You can play 24 seconds of lockdown D, but if you allow your opponents to consistently wreak havoc on the offensive glass, they’re going to gradually wear you down and take advantage eventually.
Dolson in particular had her best game of the season. She had season highs in: blocks (three), points (16), rebounds (eight), and assists (seven). You saw everything she brings to the table tonight as she was able to do some work in the post, make some timely passes, and provide interior presence.
The other big area of improvement tonight was in the turnover department. All season long, turnovers have given the Liberty trouble and cost them winnable games. Tonight, they are committed a season low 12 turnovers and most importantly, only three after halftime. Brondello started Crystal Dangerfield at point guard tonight, and it worked out beautifully. It doesn’t show in the box score, but CD kept the offense organized as she initiated possessions and lessened the ballhandling responsibilities of her teammates. If she’s able to play at the pace she does while keeping the turnovers down, she’ll help keep the offense afloat.
I recently read “This Week in Seafoam” from Justin Carter over at Nets Republic. Justin did a mailbag and I asked if he thought the Libs should move Sabrina Ionescu from point guard to shooting guard. Here’s how he answer:
I firmly believe that with her shooting ability and her passing skill, Ionescu could be one of the best two-guards in the W. And in that role, I think you can win if she’s your best player.
But you need a quality starting point guard. It’s telling that her most efficient season at Oregon came in the year that Minyon Moore was a Duck; putting Sabrina at the two allows her to focus more on the things she’s really good at, plus it would mean New York would have arguably the best passing shooting guard in the league.
With Dangerfield at point, Ionescu moved over to her natural position of shooting guard. She had her best game since the first game against the Fever as her 23 points and seven rebounds led the way. During the losing streak, we noticed Sab wasn’t getting downhill and getting to the rim as much as she needed to. Tonight, Ionescu was able to attack the basket more and wound up taking a season high eight free throw attempts.
In the postgame, we asked Sabrina about her ability to get downhill tonight. Here’s what she said:
“I think it was just really slowing down continuing to attack the gaps, get in the paint, draw and kick. A lot of the times, I will get in the paint and see passing windows, see shooters open, but they kinda stay spaced and hugged up on our shooters and so I was able to get in the lane, get foul calls. Crystal did a great job of attacking and kicking as well.[Indiana] switched on us tonight, we’re just gonna have to continue to attack those mismatches, do it patiently, and do it at the right time.”
Ionescu attacking and putting pressure on opposing guards is a key part of the Liberty’s attack and when defenses are so focused on preventing the team from getting open from deep, she’ll have those opportunities at the basket.
On Wednesday afternoon, the team announced that 2021 WNBA All Star, Betnijah Laney, underwent an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy on her right knee at the Hospital of Special Surgery. The procedure will keep Laney out of action for eight weeks as she recovers. As the team’s go-to scorer, it’s going to take a collective effort to make up for her absence. On Thursday, Laney took to Instagram and thanked everyone for their well wishes
In the pregame, Brondello mentioned that she expects Didi Richards to be back in action by mid June. She stressed that Richards won’t be the savior of the team when she returns, so look for her easy her way back into things when she returns.
Big time Bec
With the injuries to Jocelyn Willoughby, Didi, and the Queen Bee, a lot is riding on Rebecca Allen’s shoulders. Allen is one of the team’s best finishers at the basket and is one of their best defenders as well. Allen had the primary assignment of guarding Fever star and reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Kelsey Mitchell, and did a great job. Mitchell only went 5-16 from the field as the Liberty contested practically every shot she attempted tonight.
Brondello was asked about the defense on Mitchell and said:
Brondello on Bec Allen’s defense on Kelsey Mitchell (17 pts on 5/16): “Bec has length. She’s not gonna beat you with physicality, but she has those arms. She moves pretty well. But it took everyone. We tried to crowd her and execute our scout as well as we can.” (Q: @Team_Green)
— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) June 2, 2022
The teamwork on the boards and on defense will keep the team on the right track as they move forward.
The Libs are back on the road Friday night for a matchup against the Washington Mystics. Tip off is at 7:00 pm ET