clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Betnijah Laney makes season debut & Stef Dolson returns to Chicago as Liberty take on the Sky

2021 Chicago Sky Championship Parade Photo by Kena Krutsinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Moving and grooving. The New York Liberty opened up the 2022 season on Saturday night against one of the toughest teams in the WNBA, the Connecticut Sun. They were able to give the Barclays Center crowd a great game and a great win, beating the Sun 81-79.

The opponent tonight will be the Chicago Sky. The Sky had a bumpy 2021 regular season, but made that a distant memory as they went on a magical run to win the 2021 WNBA Finals. The Sky rang in the new season with an Opening Night affair against the Los Angeles Sparks that went to overtime, but the Sky fell short in the end.

Where to follow the game

CBS Sports Network is the place to be. Tip off is after 8 p.m.

Injuries

No Rebecca Allen. Betnijah Laney and Didi Richards both missed Opening Night due to injuries. Laney is back, but Richards will miss this one.

Finals MVP, Kahleah Copper, is overseas and won’t be playing tonight. Allie Quigley is dealing with a knee injury, and is likely to miss this game. Astou Ndour-Fall will not be playing this season as she is electing to rest. Julie Allemand is overseas and won’t be playing.

The game

The Liberty have been off since Saturday, but after tonight, they’ll be playing every other day for the next week. In the Sun game, Sandy Brondello relied on an eight player rotation, largely due to the Laney and Richards injuries. With Laney back and the schedule tightening up, look for them to expand things a bit.

Having Laney back will be a huge help to the Liberty offense. Laney had the best season of her career in 2021 and she gives the team another solid ball handler and more importantly, someone who can get their own shot and make it happen on offense. With the change in the offense, the Liberty will look to get her some easier scoring opportunities and take some of the burden off of her shoulders.

AD returned to the court on Saturday night for the first time since 2019, and although they didn’t register a statistic on the stat sheet, they helped up the intensity and keep the Liberty defense humming. I thought this possession in the second quarter really stood out

They were able to dig at the ballhandler, rotate back over to their assignment, put pressure on the ball, and the possession ended up with a Sabrina Ionescu steal. The Liberty have mentioned defense as one of the most important things to work on this season, and if they can work together on that end, they can force turnovers and get out in transition.

Dana Evans will look to build off of her fantastic season debut. Against the Sparks, she scored a career high 24 points on 9-17 shooting from the field. She started off cold, but gradually heated up as the game progressed. Evans is lightning quick off the dribble and the Liberty will need to make sure their on ball defense is on point and work to keep Evans from getting to the cup

Rim protection will be huge for the Liberty and if they can keep the Sky off the foul line, they’ll be in a good position to get the win.

The Sky are looking different from last season, and one of their big acquisitions was Emma Meesseman. Big Meese spent the first seven seasons of her WNBA career with the Washington Mystics and won the 2019 Finals MVP. She can score on the inside and at 6’4, she can draw opposing bigs out to the perimeter with her three point shooting. Her birthday is on Friday night and a W before hand would be a welcome present for her.

Chasing Meesseman around will be Natasha Howard. Howard had the assignment of guarding Jonquel Jones on Saturday night and was marvelous as she helped hold the reigning MVP to 6-17 from the field along with six turnovers. Howard will get the Meesseman matchup and she’ll try to force her into difficult shots. On offense, the quicker Liberty’s ball movement will get her clean looks from three and make things easier for her.

Sabrina Ionescu is healthy for the first time in a while, and you saw her full game on display Saturday as her 25/11/6 paced the Liberty attack. What was most impressive about her night was how often she drove to the basket and put pressure on the Sun defense that way. As long as she continues to attack and get downhill, the Liberty offense will be able to function and live up to its potential.

Player to watch: Stefanie Dolson

Homecoming! Stef Dolson is making her return to Chicago after signing with the Liberty in free agency over the winter. She spent five seasons with the Sky, was named an All Star in 2017, won a gold medal last year, and hit the game winning basket to seal the chip for Chi-Town.

It’s a Big Mama thing!

This might be the last dance for one of the game’s greatest players. The thought of retirement has been popping up for Candace Parker, and CP3 spoke about that a while back:

“I’m game for playing five, six more WNBA seasons if I could literally have an easy button of getting in shape. It’s the easy button, that’s the problem. It’s the being in the studio, which I love, but then waking up in the morning and working out before going on air. It’s the travel. It’s the offseason. So I think the first workout that I did the end of October, I was like, ‘Yeah, I really might retire.’ That’s how close I was. I was literally looking at my exercise bike and I was just like, ‘Yeah, that might have been a good time to retire. I don’t want to do this.’”

As hoops fans, we’re glad CP3 came back and is here with us this season. Parker is the perfect franchise player and league ambassador. On the court, she can run the offense, get you clutch buckets, and never wavers under pressure as her years of high stakes basketball make her one f the most reliable superstars in the sport. Off the court, she’s one of the game’s most fun and engaging personalities and someone fans adore. Her daughter, Lailaa, designed her Opening Night shoes, and they’re pretty groovy. As CP3 winds her on court career down, we’ll get a chance to appreciate everything she’s brought to the sport.

From the Vault

It’s only right we go to where everything ended in 2021.

And on a sad note, it was announced that Basketball Hall of Famer and former Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks great, Bob Lanier, passed away on Tuesday evening at the age of 73. Let’s get familiar with the legend

More reading: Swish Appeal