When your offense is stuck in the mud, it’s hard to come out of it. You try to find something, anything that’ll get you back on the right track. When it does open back up, good things can happen. It’s a slow, sometimes fitful process, but you have to keep at it in order to win.
On Friday night, the New York Liberty took on the Seattle Storm. A few hours before tipoff, the Storm announced that future Hall of Famer, Sue Bird, and rising big, Ezi Magbegor, entered into health and safety protocols and were out for this game. After falling behind by as much as 16 points, the Liberty offense woke up in the second half as they stormed back into this contest. They got it into overtime, but they lost three starters along the way and eventually lost, 79-71. It was New York’s sixth straight loss. They now stand at 1-6, worst in the WNBA.
The second half turnaround is what you wanted to see out of the team. After going 0-11 from deep, they went 7-10 from downtown in the third quarter as the offense finally got unlocked. In the postgame, we asked what worked well, and she said:
Brondello on 2H improvement "Moving the ball. Just what we asked them to do all game. We didn't get many second side touches in that first half. We have to move the ball without just focusing on one action. Good balance of inside/outsideMaking shots definitely helped."(Q @busyxb)— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 28, 2022
Variety on offense is crucial for the Liberty and they have to work to attack from all angles.
Two statistics tell the tale of this contest. First up, free throws. On the night, Seattle went 22-of=27 from the charity stripe as compared to the Liberty’s 14-of-14. The two biggest free throws might have been here as Stef Dolson got called for a foul on Breanna Stewart
Stewie hit both to tie the game at 62. took more free throws (18) than the entire Liberty team. Those 18 free throws were a career high for Stewart and a single game record for the Storm. The free throws helped immensely as the former MVP only went 7-19 from the field in her 39 minutes on the court. Sandy Brondello mentioned that the team needed to improve its discipline and avoid committing those reach in fouls that sent Stewart to the line. With a player as good as Stewart, you can’t afford to have lapses on defense that will give her easy points at the line.
Stewart did battle with her old frontcourt teammate, Natasha Howard, for much of the night. Howard put together another excellent game as she led the team in scoring with 19 and tied for the game high in rebounds with nine. Howard got it going in a variety of ways as her post play and jump shooting helped pace the Liberty attack:
Howard is one of the better two-way players in basketball and when her shots are going, it makes her even more difficult to handle. As the Liberty continue on, they’ll need big games from her every night.
The other big number was 24. That was the number of turnovers the Liberty had on the evening and the Storm made them pay by scoring 29 points off of those turnovers. Last week, Rebecca Allen mentioned to us that the team needed to avoid trying to make home run plays. Of the turnovers tonight, this might’ve been the most frustrating to watch
Although Sabrina Ionescu scored her 500th career point on the evening, it was another rough night for the Liberty star. She only went 3-12 from the field and of her 12 field goal attempts, only one came inside the painted area. Ionescu is at her best when she’s attacking downhill and when she’s settling for jump shots, the offense isn’t as potent as it needs to be. Without Betnijah Laney, the Liberty need more from Ionescu and she has shown in the past that she can up her game when the team needs it.
The 3-12 from the field was rough, but Rebecca Allen was working hard on both sides of the ball. She scored the team’s last five points to get the game into overtime and tied for the game high in blocks with three. She and the rest of the Liberty had the tall task of shutting down Jewell Loyd, and they did an admirable job. On the night, the former All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist went 7-of-22 from the field as the Libs fought to make her shots as difficult as possible
Allen’s size gives the team some much needed versatility and punch against some of the more athletic teams in the WNBA. In the postgame, Sami Whitcomb spoke about Allen being dynamic in late game situations and said:
“She’s not a player I think that gets really in her head too much with that stuff. I think she knows what she’s capable of doing and she’s confident in that, and I think she kind of moves on to that next play mentality. She might’ve known she wasn’t having a good game, but she has an open shot, she’s taking it. She has an open lane, she’s taking it. She wants to step up and help us get over the line no matter what that looks like. And obviously, the fact that she can get to the rim, the fact that she can shoot to the three, I think that makes her really tough to defend and it makes her a really dynamic player for us offensively.”
Surprisingly, the Liberty also won the rebound battle by 12 on the night. It’s been a weakness of the team all year, but if they can gang rebound like they did tonight, they can turn things around.
We’re staying in town as these teams will dance one more time. Tip off is at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
- Box Score: Seattle Storm 79, New York Liberty 71 (OT) - WNBA
- Game Highlights: Seattle Storm 79, New York Liberty 71 (Video) - WNBA
- Highlights: Natasha Howard 19 points vs. Storm (Video) - WNBA
- Liberty Overcome 16-Point Deficit to Force Overtime, Fall to Storm 79-71 - New York Liberty
- Sue Bird among Storm players out vs. Liberty because of COVID protocols - Percy Allen - Seattle Times