Getting to that next level is incredibly difficult. You’ve made your improvements and are feeling good about yourself, but there’s still someone you’re trying to catch. That someone you’re chasing has what you want and when you go against them, you want to show that you can hang. Even if you do that, you still come away feeling as if you have more room to grow.
The New York Liberty hosted the Seattle Storm on Sunday afternoon in front of an energetic Barclays Center crowd. The focus was on hometown hero, Sue Bird, as she played her final game in New York. The game was fun filled and back and forth, but the 2020 Champions set themselves apart late and came away with an 81-72 win and a season sweep of the Liberty.
The game was hard fought and sometimes, the other team has Breanna Stewart and you don’t
The Liberty actually did a heck of a job on the former MVP as she shot 7-16 from the field with three turnovers as the Libs threw a series of defenders at her along with aggressive double teams and having her shoot over long defenders like Han Xu. Even when you do everything right, sometimes the greats do just enough to sneak past you anyway. It’s like that sometimes.
The number of the day was five. That was the amount of times the Liberty got to the free throw line, which was a season low. The Storm have arguably the best rim protector in the sport with Ezi Magbegor, and Ezi the Eraser added another highlight block to her mixtape with this one:
Ezi Magbegor ERASED Sabrina Ionescu's shot attempt pic.twitter.com/LBYh4L0bZu— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 19, 2022
In the postgame, Sabrina Ionescu spoke about the lack of free throws and said:
“It would be nice to get some calls, but it’s kind of how it goes some times. We get em, some times we don’t so we just have to keep making refs have to make the decision getting into the lane, attacking. But they’re a collapse team, so we were able to drive-and-kick and get cutters.”
Ionescu mentioned that the offense is a read and react offense and as the players continue to get practices and game reps with one another, they’ll be able to play in rhythm
There’s plenty of goodness developing for the Liberty. Even with the close losses, the team has gone head-to-head against former champions and fought them tooth and nail. They’re not that far
The magic hour
For years, Liberty fans have been anticipating the return of Marine Johannès. We saw a glimpse of her potential in 2019 as the team was in Westchester. She’s back now, and was the team’s best player this afternoon. She even got the player interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe heading into the fourth quarter:
On the afternoon, MJ had a showcase Sunday as her 23 points on 9-12 shooting from the field (5-8 from three point range) as she dazzled the crowd with tough shots and an array of awesome passes
I hope someone out there is making a mixtape of all of MJ’s best plays! In postgame, Johannès was asked about what allowed her to look so comfortable in the offense even though she’s been here a few weeks. Here’s her response:
“I feel better. Sab’s helping me a lot, and the team also. Sandy’s really great with me, she’s really positive, and she told me that I’m not in a box so I have to play free and feel the game. I think I understand what she wants and I hope I can help the team.”
Johannes got the primary assignment of defending Storm star, Jewell Loyd, and did a terrific job as Loyd shot a season worst 3-16 from the field. MJ spoke about the challenge and said:
“She’s a great player, so it wasn’t just me. I think we did a really good job on her as a team.”
With Rebecca Allen on the road to recovery following her concussion, MJ will have a lot on her plate. She gives the team another elite ballhandler and shot creator and her size and athleticism will help offset the losses of Allen, Betnijah Laney, and Jocelyn Willoughby. When the Liberty are back at full strength, they’re going to be hell on earth for their opponents.
Sue York City
Today was Sue Bird’s last regular season game in New York, and the Liberty pulled out all the stops. In the pregame, the team aired a beautiful tribute before the game
The Barclays Center crowd — a healthy 6,800 — found themselves in a unique position. They wanted their hometown team to win, but also wanted to see Bird have an amazing game and do something special. The Storm had a two possession lead late and the legend had the ball in her hands at the top of the key
It was a terrific game and the Brooklyn crowd sent Bird off the right way. In postgame, Sandy Brondello was asked about the environment of this game and took a big picture view, saying:
“I hope that we can continue to have crowds like we had today. I think we’ve shown a good brand of basketball. We’re a much better team than we were at the start of the year and it does help. It is homecourt advantage. I was in Phoenix for eight years, and the X-Factor was such a big asset for us there and I think that’s what we wanna bring to the Liberty and get it back to the early days and make it a hot ticket. This is the best league in the world with the best players, and it shouldn’t just be about Sue Bird coming in. It should be about all these wonderful players coming in, but also supporting the New York Liberty as we work hard to be the best team we can be and hopefully win a championship.”
Throughout the season, the fans at Barclays Center have been wonderful as their energy and joy has made being at the games an incredibly fun experience for everyone in the building. As the Liberty continue to reestablish themselves, playing ball that makes NY proud will continue bringing the people out to Barclays Center and help the WNBA continue growing.
Welcome back, Didi!
After being out for weeks with a right hamstring injury, Didi Richards made her return to competition this afternoon. Sandy Brondello spoke about her performance and said:
“It was good. It’s only gonna get better. She hasn’t played all offseason, coming back from injury, it takes time to get a little rhythm playing different positions. But I liked what I saw out there. I think that’s something we can build on as we move forward...”
Ionescu spoke about her return as well, saying:
In her 13 minutes on the court, Richards snagged four rebounds and showed active hands as she made some deflections that almost led to Liberty fastbreak opportunities going the other way. As Allen recovers from her concussion, having Richards back and able to contribute will give the Liberty another option to work with.
The Liberty are on the road Wednesday evening as they’ll be taking on the Connecticut Sun. Tip after 7:00 p.m. ET.
- Box Score: Seattle Storm 81, New York Liberty 72 - WNBA
- Game Highlights: Seattle Storm 81, New York Liberty 72 (Video) - WNBA
- Highlights: Natasha Howard / 27 points (Video) - WNBA
- Bird’s late 3 seals Storm win in her New York finale - Doug Feinberg - AP
- Sue Bird seals Storm’s victory over Liberty in New York finale - Jared Greenspan - New York Post
- Liberty heap praise on retiring Sue Bird before beating Mystics - Brian Heyman - Newsday
- SUE BIRD ON NEW YORK HOMECOMING: ‘I WILL REALLY REMEMBER FOREVER’ - Clare Brennan - Just Women’s Sports
- Sue Bird plays final game in New York, receives big send-off from Liberty, standing ovation from Barclays fans - Jack Maloney - CBS Sports
- Sue Bird hits dagger in final game in New York, yells ‘bing bong’ at Barclays - Cassandra Negley - Yahoo! Sports
- Sue Bird and a ‘Fairy Tale’ New York Ending - Ben Pickman - Sports Illustrated