When you’re a new team, it takes to get all the way acclimated with one another. You’ve got to develop that rhythm, go through the growing pains, and figure out combinations that will lead to success now and as the season progresses. Even with the losses, there are valuable lessons to take from the journey.
On Sunday afternoon, the New York Liberty played host to the Dallas Wings at Barclays Center. Dallas was able to use a strong third quarter to keep the Liberty at bay and hand the New Yorkers their third straight loss, losing 81-71. The L puts them at 1-3 to start this new WNBA season.
In the pregame, Sandy Brondello spoke about the challenge in defending Wings All Star, Arike Ogunbowale:
“With Arike, just making sure half of her shots are threes so we’re staying up and in, and showing a crowd as much as we can, and keep a little bit of size on her, and hopefully she has a bad night... Just make it hard for her, I think that’s the only and when she does go downhill, making sure that we’re not sending her to the foul line.”
Jocelyn Willoughby drew the assignment for much of the day, and did a damn good job. In the first half, Ogunbowale only went 1-of-6 from the field as Willoughby covered her most of the time. After the break, Ogunbowale started to turn things around as her three point shot started to fall. After the break, the Wings worked to force the Liberty bigs into switching more frequently, which freed her up to cook from deep
In the postgame, Brondello noted that she wanted the team to force Ogunbowale into the screens and trap her more, but it didn’t work out. Ogunbowale also cashed in on wide open threes following Wings offensive rebounds. Willoughby didn’t get much run after the break, and Brondello mentioned that she wanted to have more of an offensive flow going so that led to Sami Whitcomb getting more minutes after the break than Willoughby.
The offense - defense conundrum will get solved to a degree on Tuesday night as Rebecca Allen is expected to make her season debut after playing in Spain.
“Some things will be familiar, so it will be an easy integration, just be remembering some of the stuff,” Brondello said before the game. “It’ll be nice to have a player of her caliber on the bench. ... So excited to have Bec back.”
Allen gives the Libs some more size on the perimeter to help go against the elite wings in the W and also someone who can keep the offense humming on the other end. For her W career, Allen is a career 38.1 percent shooter from three point range. Her incoming return will give the Liberty one more solid option and make the roster more complete.
The further you get from injury, the more you start to look like yourself. You get back in rhythm, feel confident doing what you were doing at full strength, and have plenty to store in the memory bank as you continue your recovery. Betnijah Laney has been working her way back from offseason knee surgery and had her best game of 2022 thus far.
If the Liberty are going to figure it out defensively, I'm going to be annoying. Good activity from Whitcomb, good help from Laney and if you let Laney go with space/in the open floor it's a problem. pic.twitter.com/d6InwkgSFO— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) May 15, 2022
On the day, Laney went 6-of-11 from the field as she scored 13 points and handed out five assists in 32 minutes. The Liberty have a bunch of capable ballhandlers and players that can initiate the offense, and with Laney always being a threat to score, it makes her passing even more vital to the team’s success.
House of guards
There were a lot of great guards in the house on Sunday, including Steve Nash!
Two things have been troublesome for the Liberty thus far, turnovers and rough third quarters. In the first half, the Liberty committed 11 of their 17 turnovers as they weren’t able to fully take advantage of their good shooting (48.5 percent from the field in the first half). In the post game, Sabrina Ionescu spoke about the team as they try to build chemistry and get familiar with one another:
“...we just need to slow down, take our time, execute, take care of the ball, and that’s something we did in spurts tonight, but we didn’t do throughout the entire 40 minutes. So that’s something that we’re gonna need to keep adjusting, and obviously that’s gonna go hand in hand with us getting some continuity, playing with one another, figuring out tendencies and continuing to just build that relationship because we haven’t been able to play together for very long.”
With greater familiarity and continuity comes more success on offense. As the Liberty get healthier and have their full complement of players available, those turnover numbers should start to trend in the other direction.
Coming out of the break, the Liberty got as close as four points, but a quick 6-0 Wings run near the end of the quarter pushed the lead up to 10 and the Liberty couldn’t crawl out of the hole this time.
Han Xu shines
Due to Stef Dolson’s foul troubles, Han Xu got some extended playing time, and made the most of it. Han scored 10 points in 15 minutes off the bench and displayed some nice high-low chemistry with Natasha Howard. It was the second time this season the 6’10” center has scored in double figures.
Han still has improvements to make on the defensive end, but with more playing time and experience, she can make it happen. As she continues to play well, we’ll see if she can earn a bigger spot in the rotation.
DiDi Richards update
New York guard DiDi Richards was out after re-aggravating a right hamstring injury on Friday, AP reports. She played four minutes in that game and Sandy Brondello said there’s no timetable for Richards’ return.
The Liberty are back at it on Tuesday evening at Barclays against the Connecticut Sun. Tip is after 7:00 p.m. ET.
- Box Score: Dallas Wings 81, New York Liberty 71 - WNBA
- Game Highlights: Dallas Wings 81, New York Liberty 71 (Video) - WNBA
- Sabrina Ionescu with a team-high 17 PTS for the New York Liberty as they drop the home loss (Video) - WNBA
- After just 3 PTS in the first half, Arike Ogunbowale erupted for a game-high 21 (Video) - WNBA
- Ogunbowale scores 21 to lead Dallas over New York 81-71 - Doug Feinberg - AP
- Bec Allen returning to Liberty ‘will be an easy integration,’ says Sandy Brondello - Sarah Valenzuela - New York Daily News