The tricky thing about falling behind is that once you finally get it going, you’re having to do it while climbing uphill. The other side has built up a nice rhythm and can withstand all the haymakers you throw at them. And soon enough, you run out of time.
On Sunday afternoon, the New York Liberty played host to the Minnesota Lynx at Barclays Center. The Libs were looking to avenge a tough loss the Lynx handed them in late May in Minneapolis. The Lynx survived a furious Liberty fourth quarter rally to come away with an 84-77 victory.
The number of the day was 13.3 percent. That was what the Liberty shot from 3-point range on the afternoon as they couldn’t get it going from downtown, shooting only 4-of-30. The Libs had plenty of clean looks from deep throughout the game, but it was one of those nights when your jumper isn’t working. When the Liberty went on their big run in the fourth, they were getting to the basket and finishing in traffic, but they ran out of gas late as Minnesota went on a 10-3 run to seal the deal.
With Rebecca Allen stuck on the bench due to foul trouble, Aerial Powers was able to take full advantage. Powers broke out of her recent slump and had her best game of the season, scoring a season high 26 points on a ./1.000/.667 shooting split. Powers going off highlights a potentially fatal flaw on this injury riddled Liberty roster. Without Jocelyn Willoughby and Didi Richards, the Libs don’t have enough wing defenders that can slow down players on the perimeter like Powers when she has it going. Brondello spoke about not having that top notch perimeter defender on the team and said:
“...that’s why we were supposed to be bringing a trap. Unfortunately, we don’t have a dynamic player on the perimeter that can just lock someone down, and Bec Allen is our best one. She had three fouls [in the first half] and that hurt us. Michaela [Onyenwere] did her bets, but we’ve gotta crowd [Powers] a little bit more, have that sense of urgency. It’s not about one person locking someone down, it’s a team, and we didn’t do that team concept which we wanted to. It’s something we can learn from.”
case in point
For a Liberty team that is shorthanded on the wings, they’re going to have to be in sync on defense for as much as humanly possible. Allen is essential to their attack and Onyenwere had one of her best games of the season this afternoon, and it’s going to take a team effort to help them out and reduce the load they have to carry on defense.
A positive for the Liberty was in the turnover department. They only coughed it up 11 times today, which is a season low. In the post-game, Brondello attributed that to the increased chemistry on the roster as players have had more opportunities to play with each other, get familiar with each other’s tendencies, etc. Coach Sandy also noted the presence of Crystal Dangerfield has been a positive as well. In the last three games, CD, the league’s Rookie of the Year two seasons back, has an 11:1 assist to turnover ratio. The Lynx took advantage of the size mismatch on the other end, so that’s an area where the Liberty’s team defense will need to pick things up.
4th quarter Han
With Stef Dolson limited by foul trouble, the coaching staff turned to Han Xu. Han was on the court for the Liberty’s big run and held her own in a major way. Han started off slowly in the first half as she wasn't able to find her footing and make an impact early in the contest. In the fourth, Han scored four points, grabbed three rebounds, got two steals and blocked one shot in nine minutes.
Han has developed great chemistry with her teammates so far. The next step in her development will be coming out strong at the beginning of the game against an elite big like Sylvia Fowles next time she sees her. Luckily, she’ll get one more bite at the apple on Tuesday evening.
The dynamic duo
Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard shot a combined 22-of-39 from the field today. The rest of the Liberty? A combined 10-32. Eek!
Ionescu has gotten healthier and stronger as the season has progressed and had another banner performance this afternoon. Sab had 31 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals on 13-of-24 from the field. It was the first time in her career that she’s scored 20 or more points in three straight games.
One of the big things that’s been evident for Ionescu...
This is what you want to see from Sabrina Ionescu. The Lynx have been blitzing basically every time she drives right, so she adjusts here by rejecting the screen, spinning left, and blowing by Jessica Shepard for the easy deuce. pic.twitter.com/gaJFemHtc5— Positive Residual (@presidual) June 5, 2022
The Liberty have needed some more scoring punch with Betnijah Laney out, and Ionescu has delivered all that and then some. For all of the focus on her scoring, it’s her passing ability that makes her an even more difficult player to defend.
We mentioned chemistry up top, and it rings true here as well. As everyone gets familiar with the ins and outs of the offense combined with the natural feel of knowing where to go when a play breaks down, the Liberty will continue to improve on offense.
Howard didn’t have it going from 3-point range today, but nobody on the team did. She was still able to leave her mark on the game with a solid all around game of 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks.
These teams will dance one more time on Tuesday night at Barclays. Tip after 7:00 p.m. ET.