When you’re trying to make it back to the top, you gotta stay locked in from beginning to end. You don’t have room to start off slow or gently ease your way into something. You’ve got to bring the same fight you would at the end of the game from the beginning. If you don’t, you make the task harder and the effort to climb out of the hole may be too much to overcome.
On Thursday night, the New York Liberty had their rematch against the Atlanta Dream. In game one last week, the Dream were shorthanded and the Liberty were able to take advantage and come away with the win. Tonight, the shoe was on the other foot as the Liberty played only eight players and fell behind by as much as 13 points. The team fought all the way back and had a chance to bring it home late, but they got hit with a dagger that sent it to overtime. From there, they ran out of gas and suffered a tough loss, 91-80.
One of the great debates in basketball is “Do you foul late up three points?” A lot of us (such as myself!) say no and trust the defense to get one more stop to close things out. The Liberty were in that situation tonight, and here’s how it went:
In the postgame, Sandy Brondello explained that the probably should’ve fouled in the backcourt, but was hesitant against a team as aggressive as the Dream as they had the potential to throw something up and draw a three shot foul late. It’s just one of those things that happens and is a lesson for a team that is hoping to make it back to the playoffs.
In overtime, the Liberty were a bit deflated and simply ran out of gas as Tiffany Hayes powered the Dream in overtime, scoring nine of her game high 21 points.
The Liberty fought back into this game with an extended 17-0 run in the fourth quarter that included this huge three pointer from Didi Richards:
Sabrina Ionescu spoke about Didi in postgame and said:
“She’s just getting better. She’s continuing to get better every game, and she’s coming back and getting to her spots on the floor, getting back into rhythm after missing most of the season. I’m really happy to see her growth and what she’s done. Obviously she got into foul trouble, but she’ll continue to learn from that. She played a huge part in us coming back.”
Due to the salary cap, the Liberty were without starting point guard, Crystal Dangerfield. With Dangerfield, the team has been much more careful with the basketball as their turnover woes ceased once she was inserted into the starting five. She also gave someone that can attack downhill and get to the basket. Without Dangerfield, the team was down a ballhandler that could handle the physical Dream defense, especially with Didi Richards in foul trouble throughout the game. In post,
Brondello spoke about the importance of Dangerfield and what she brought to the team. And as it happens, she won’t be gone for long
On Friday afternoon, the team announced that they waived rookie forward/center, Lorela Cubaj. When she did see the court, Lo played hard and showed some flashes of potential. However, with the roster crunch currently facing the Liberty, she was the likeliest candidate to be released. It
Some more reinforcements are on the way as well. Rebecca Allen is out of concussion protocol and is in return to play protocol. Jocelyn Willoughby has been practicing in recent days and is due back soon. Having them back will give the team more size to defend perimeter players and some shooting as well.
Release some tension
This game got pretty chippy in the third quarter as Sabrina Ionescu and Kristy Wallace got hit with double technicals after a brief skirmish. Aari McDonald took some exception to an Ionescu elbow and barked at her a bit, but nothing came out of it. With how into the game the crowd was from beginning to end and the intensity and passion the players showed all game, it felt like a playoff game at Barclays. Even with the loss, the Liberty played with the determination and fight that New York basketball fans are used to and quite frankly, deserve.
And it helps to have your star player say this
I asked Sabrina Ionescu about keeping her composure after Kristy Wallace and Aari McDonald 3rd Q scuffles: "No one gets under my skin. I just play like that. I know I’m getting everyone’s best shot. It got physical, and we just need to weather those storms." @Winsidr #OwnTheCrown— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) July 1, 2022
Franchise players don’t run from the fight.
A new day?
As anyone who’s reading this site knows full well, things have been chaotic for the Brooklyn Nets for a while now and things officially blew up yesterday with Kevin Durant asking for a trade. As the chaos consumes them, one member of the team was at Barclays on Thursday.
Ben Simmons here at the Liberty game, minding his own business pic.twitter.com/4qaI3W9Ix1— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) July 1, 2022
Ben Simmons has been out and about this summer and now that he is seemingly the last Nets star left, will have a lot more responsibilities on his shoulders and will have to bring good feelings, good vibes, and good play back to Brooklyn in the fall.
Good vibes, good month
After a rough May, the Liberty went 7-4 in June with a net rating of 5.6, both good for second best in the WNBA that month behind the 2021 Champs, the Chicago Sky. The Liberty figured some things out amidst their injury troubles, found players and combinations that worked for them and are squarely in the playoff chase. We asked Stef Dolson about what worked for the team in the fourth quarter last night, and she said:
“Getting stops, but also just moving the ball. We moved the ball really well, quickly, I think that’s the key with a team like this that I don’t think we did a great job of the first few quarters of moving the ball quickly and getting them in a disadvantage. I think we put them on their heels on defense and obviously we were able to make shots and make plays.”
The Liberty can take the good from this month and carry it with them as reinforcements arrive and they move into the later parts of the season.
The Liberty are heading to the West Coast for a week and begin their journey in Los Angeles against the Sparks on Sunday evening. Tip is after 6:30 p.m. ET.