That’s how you bounce back. After a rough loss on Friday night, the New York Liberty got the ESPN game and were looking to put together a better performance. They did that and then some as they came away with a Commissioner’s Cup win against the Chicago Sky.
The opponent tonight will be the Dallas Wings. It’s been a while since they’ve made the playoffs so they’re hoping 2021 is their year. They took the reigning champs into overtime, but the Seattle Storm were able to hold on and win by three points Saturday night.
The game will be the first played under the state’s new arena capacity guidelines. An executive at BSE Global, Joe Tsai’s holding company, reminds us that same rules that apply to the Nets and Knicks also govern Liberty games at Barclays.
So, they’ll Interested to see what the Libs get when they return home. New York averaged 9,888 at Madison Square Garden in 2017 before James Dolan moved them to Westchester where they averaged a fraction of that. Women’s sports, of course, are much more popular now.
In two games at Barclays in 2019, the Liberty drew 7,715 fans to a regular season game against the Seattle Storm and 4,155 for an exhibition game vs. China’s national team.
Of course, today’s game is a weekday encounter that was rescheduled because of a conflict with the Nets and Celtics. So it may not provide a good sample.
Where to follow the game
Twitter and YES Network are the places to be. Tip off after 7 PM.
Jocelyn Willoughby is out, Leaonna Odom is questionable, both with Achilles injuries.
Satou Sabally, Awak Kuier, and Alissha Gray are out.
Originally, this game was to be played on Tuesday night. However, the NBA scheduled Game 2 of Nets vs Celtics on Tuesday so the Liberty got moved. Kind of crappy of the league to do that to the Liberty and Wings, so hopefully they learn and do better next time.
Fortunately for the Liberty, they’ve got a few days off after this before returning on Saturday afternoon at home against the Atlanta Dream. That may be a better sample for arena capacity.
As far as debuts go, Natasha Howard’s wasn’t bad. How was she in her Liberty debut? Let’s ask coach Walt Hopkins:
“She looked a little sped up at first. A little jumpy as should be expected with no practices, just coming in and starting. She did do a great job knocking down that first jumper, [and] gave us a little bit of momentum. And I think her ability to cut and move without the ball and catch tough passes and finish them is something that we are really going to benefit from, we got to see that a little bit in the second half. As she gets more and more comfortable, we’re gonna be able to utilize her in different ways. But I told her multiple times how good it was to have her in there.”
For an offense that makes its hay on well timed cuts and making the extra pass, Howard is a god send. Howard played about 22 minutes yesterday afternoon so we’ll see how long she plays tonight. She had six turnovers yesterday, but we’ll give her a break on that. Isabelle Harrison will operate in the middle for new coach Vickie Johnson. Harrison does most of her damage close to the rim and is one of the team’s best rebounders.
Good teams need players that can get you buckets late, and Betnijah Laney certainly qualifies. She made her last three shots of the game yesterday to keep the Sky at bay as she continues to build on her career year. She’s been an invaluable part of the team thus far and is a good bet to be named to the All Star team. It would be a well deserved honor and a major platform for her to showcase her game to an even bigger audience.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Liberty got word that Sabrina Ionescu was named WNBA Player of the Week.
First of many no doubt!
Player to watch: Arike Ogunbowale
As young franchise players, Ogunbowale is definitely someone you’d want to have on your side. She handles the bulk of the scoring responsibility for the Wings and has seen her usage rise again this year. She’s getting to the rim more this year and cutting back on the three point attempts so far and it’s helped her to a career high (so far) 45.7 percent from the field. Sometimes she forces the action and rushes up bad shots, but she’s still incredibly young and has the chance to build on the early success she’s had so far.
Sabrina Ionescu is the franchise player on this side and had a nice bounce back on Sunday. The five three pointers and career high 12 assists were definitely groovy, but keeping her turnovers to only four might have been the most impressive thing. To be a good team, you have to make the very most out of every possession you have. These are the two teams that turn the ball over the most in the W, so if the Liberty can manage to keep it low, they might run away with this one.
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