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Liberty dominate Lynx in an impressive home win behind Sabrina Ionescu classic

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With the pressures of work, it helps to have an easy day at the office. You get through the day without any calamities, emergencies, and difficulties. Those days are rare and when you get them, they feel like a blessing.

After losing the first two meetings of the season against the Minnesota Lynx, the New York Liberty were looking to avoid a sweep. Safe to say, they did that and then some. Aside from being their first double-digit victory of the season, the Liberty displayed so many excellent traits that will have fans excited about what the rest of the season holds for their club.

That and yet another classic from Sabrina Ionescu.

On Sunday, we said the big number was 13.3 percent. That was what the Liberty shot from 3-point range. A lot of those misses were wide open as shots just weren’t falling for home team. That wasn’t the story this time around as the Liberty were able to get going early from deep and generate wide open looks for their best shooters.

In the postgame, Sandy Brondello noted that the team played harder and had a greater sense of urgency in this contest as compared to Sunday. Homecourt is such a valuable thing in sports, and when you rack up Ws in your house, you build that homecourt advantage and ensure that the fans will be locked in and ready to make noise all game long.

The defense was outstanding as well as the team held the Lynx to a .328/.136/.846 shooting split on the evening. Sandy Brondello made the adjustment of moving Crystal Dangerfield off of Aerial Powers and on the ball as she consistently applied full court pressure to the Lynx point guards as they brought the ball up the court. AP cooked the Liberty on Sunday afternoon, but tonight, she only went 3-12 as the team did a better job of keeping her out of the lane and forced her into difficult midrange jumpers. Part of what helped Powers get going was that Rebecca Allen was limited due to early foul trouble. We asked Bec about what worked for the defense tonight:

“I think a part of that was also making sure she doesn’t get to the line as much as she has in past games, so fouling and foul discipline. It’s also not just one person guarding her. We’re playing a switching style at times and it’s just making sure we keep her in front, keep a hand up and make her make really tough shots, and she’s gonna make some. But I thought the team effort in general was really good tonight.”

Sandy Brondello has mentioned that she’s a defense first coach, and if the Liberty defense continues to establish itself, they’ll be able to get out in transition, push the tempo, and make big plays that get the crowd jumping.

A one of one

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Ever since the 2020 WNBA Draft, the pressure has been on for Sabrina Ionescu to be the leader of the Liberty and a star for the next generation of WNBA hoopers. Injuries got in the way in 2020 and 2021, but Ionescu is finally healthy and ready to do DAMAGE.

Ionescu had one of the best games of her career. She led all scorers with 26 points — her fourth straight 20 point game — and filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds and eight assists as well. There are so many gems from Sab’s night that we can choose from, but we’ll go with these long distance calls.

How impressive was the Oregon product’s numbers? She shot 90 percent — 10-of-11, including 4-of-4 from deep the first time a WNBA player shot that well while scoring 25 or more points and registering eight or more assists and rebounds.

Ionescu has consistently been able to get downhill over the past two weeks as she’s been finishing in traffic and getting great looks for her teammates due to all the attention she’s getting.

Opponents have thrown a lot of different coverages at Ionescu, and we asked her how she’s able to succeed as it relates to dealing with these new looks:

“I think just the experience of actually facing these defenses and having to figure out ways to continue to exploit whatever they’re doing and not really letting the defense dictate what I wanna do and getting people involved and attacking. It’s more using it to my advantage. If they wanna trap, alright, we’re gonna exploit the fact that there’s two on the ball. If they wanna hard hedge, whatever it is, I think it’s just taking it one by one and really processing that, slowing the game down, and not letting myself get sped up, and I think the whole team has really helped me with that. Whether it’s Crystal at the one or people flashing and getting open. It’s been a team effort, but it’s been really nice to have actually gone through so many defenses because I feel like I’m getting better and being able to exploit them as an individual.”

Or as Steve Jones Jr., a former Nets assistant coach under Lionel Hollins and son of Steve “Snapper” Jones, tweeted...

As Ionescu continues to grow and expand her game, the sky should be the limit for her and the Liberty franchise.

Famous friends

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Taking in the action tonight were some friends of ours from around the way! Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Cam Thomas of the Brooklyn Nets were in the house and got a warm reception from the Brooklyn faithful. After undergoing back surgery in May, Simmons has made himself at home in his new home. He’s taken in a high school lacrosse game, field day with P.S. 297 in Brooklyn, and the game tonight. For Simmons, after being public enemy number one in the basketball community for the past year and change, getting a chance to reconnect with the fans and community at large will do him good in the short and long term. Oh yeah, he attended the game with fiancée Maya Jama, the English television, radio presenter and DJ.

The fifth pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Kayvon Thibodeaux of the New York Giants, was here to support the team and his fellow Oregon Duck, Sabrina Ionescu. And last but not least, WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, was in the building as well. Prior to the game, Engelbert spoke with the assembled media and went over topics such as league expansion and what determines which city the league will add a team in, media rights and disrupting that space, the latest on Brittney Griner, among many other things.

Bigger than basketball

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

On May 3, Politico reported that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the law that ensures a person’s right to an abortion. Access to safe abortions and reproductive rights in general have been under attack for generations and with the court likely set to rollback the rights of women across the board, communities across the United States have fought back in various ways.

Protesters have taken to the homes of the Supreme Court justices, at the Supreme Court itself, been to Dodger Stadium and unfurled a banner during the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets game on Sunday afternoon, and in various locales across the United States. People have been challenging powerful institutions and fighting for their rights. On Wednesday, protesters were at Barclays Center and unfurled an “Overturn Roe? Hell no!” banner in the stands along with signs near the court. Security removed the protesters without incident and the players’ safety was not at risk. Allen spoke about the scene and said:

“I’m all for the message. And I’m happy that we were able to log back into the game and continue playing.”

Agreed.

Han does it again

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Han Xu got off to a slow start on Sunday afternoon, but was able to bounce back in the fourth quarter as she helped spark a Liberty comeback. On Tuesday night, the 6’10” Chinese national team center put forth a complete game effort, finishing with a career high 15 points to go with five rebounds. Brondello spoke about her young big:

“She’s a really smart basketball player and she grasps things really quickly. Really happy where she’s at and look forward to continue to build it as we move forward.”

Han and 6’5” Stef Dolson make for a pretty solid 1-2 punch at the center position and as the team continues to build its chemistry, they should be able to make things happen in a variety of ways.

Salute to a legend

Tuesday was Sylvia Fowles’ last game in New York as she will be retiring at the end of the season. The Liberty honored her with this beautiful tribute video

Fowles has been one of the foundations of the WNBA and seeing her get her flowers this season has been fantastic. Cheers to a Hall of Fame career!

Health updates

New York Liberty All Access Practice Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

In the pregame, Brondello was asked about the health of some of her injured players. She mentioned that Didi Richards has been moving in the right direction from her hamstring injury and will hopefully be back next week. Jocelyn Willoughby is expected to begin spot up shooting drills on Wednesday as she recovers from quadriceps surgery. The target date for her return is the end of June.

Next up

Indiana Fever v Chicago Sky

The Liberty are back at it on Friday evening on the road against the Indiana Fever.