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Liberty come home searching for a win vs. the Indiana Fever

Indiana Fever v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Home is hopefully where the wins are. The New York Liberty were back on the road Sunday evening to take on the Seattle Storm on the back end of a two game Memorial Day set. The Libs were no match for Breanna Stewart and friends as the Storm cruised to a 31 point victory. The loss was the Liberty’s seventh in a row and they are now a WNBA worst 1-7 on the season. They’re back on the East Coast and the team is hoping the new month brings good vibes.

The opponent tonight will be the Indiana Fever. They’re looking pretty different these days, but the future is bright. They played the Washington Mystics last night, but lost 87-75.

Where to follow the game

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No Jocelyn Willoughby, Didi Richards, or Betnijah Laney. Lorela Cubaj is expected to be out of concussion protocol and make her return tonight.

Bria Hartley missed last night’s game with a hamstring injury. No word on if she’ll be back tonight.

The game

Indy won the first matchup in May.

The Fever are looking a bit different from when we last saw them. On May 25, they fired head coach Marianne Stanley and replaced her with Carlos Knox on an interim basis. The players adore Knox, as was explained by Kelsey Mitchell following their recent win against the Los Angeles Sparks:

“It was priceless. I think for us, obviously a change in leadership, with no disrespect to Coach Marianne (Stanley) because I love her as well. But it was good to see him step into it so fast. And we respond fast. You know, get him a win here in his hometown, essentially, going to IUPUI. His name is in the rafters. It just meant a lot. And we knew what it was going to take, messing with a good team like LA. And we was just happy that we could walk away with this one.”

With Indy rebuilding and figuring out its future, having a coach like Knox running the show will help the process along.

The Fever played last night in Indianapolis and are here in Brooklyn tonight. As we know well from the Liberty’s travel adventures with the league office last year, teams aren’t allowed to use the best form of airline transportation available to them. We’ll see how Indy is able to adjust tonight.

Put on your track shoes and get ready to run! The Fever are second in the WNBA in pace, averaging a touch over 99 possessions a night. The pace in the first game was 103 and the Liberty have mentioned playing at a faster pace as one of their goals. With the Fever on the second leg of a b2b and the Liberty having the past few days off, it might benefit them to speed it up and tire Indiana out.

Say hello to the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week

One thing about Mitchell is that she will drive to the basket early, often, and with tenacity. Don’t take my word for it

See! Mitchell is one of the game’s best scorers and after playing 35 minutes last night, we’ll see how she handles the b2b. The Liberty held her to 8-22 as Jocelyn Willoughby and the Liberty kept her out of the paint. With no Willoughby tonight, Rebecca Allen will probably get this assignment. Allen’s length and physicality could throw Mitchell off and short circuit the Fever attack.

As it happens, the Fever game was the last time Sabrina Ionescu shot above 40 percent from the field. In that matchup, she scored a season high 31 points and hit a bevy of clutch shots as the Liberty fought to get the game into OT. One thing that was noticeable about that game was she was a lot more aggressive and assertive attacking the basket. Ionescu drove to the basket a good amount and took six shots inside of the painted area. That hasn’t been the case very often since that game and for the Liberty to succeed, they need Ionescu getting downhill.

Player to watch: Queen Egbo

The Fever have a lot of good youngsters, and Egbo is one of their best. Egbo has been one of the best rookies in the WNBA this season. Egbo is top 20 in rebounds and top 10 in blocks. In the first game, she grabbed 14 rebounds in 31 rebounds. She was a key aspect of a Fever team that won the rebounding battle by 24. Egbo has been excellent and someone Fever fans will be watching for many years to come.

In the first meeting, Sandy Brondello mentioned that the fast pace made Han Xu unplayable that night. That might be the case again tonight, but Han’s recent play has made her a key member of the Liberty’s bench. She’s adapted to every challenge thrown at her so far, and the Fever present a great challenge. A team that plays fast and attacks downhill will test Han’s stamina and ability to play without fouling. She’ll have Stef Dolson and Cubaj to help, so the work will be spread out evenly. The big trio will work to control the boards. If they can do that and help their ballhandlers control the pace, the team has a great chance of getting the win.

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