That wasn’t a good time. In front of a season-high in fans, the New York Liberty hoped to bounce back and get the win in the rubber match against the Las Vegas Aces. Let’s just say, that DIDN’T happen as Vegas led from wire-to-wire and won by 34 points. It was the worst Liberty loss in quite some time and there wasn’t anything good to take away from it. It’s like that sometimes.
The opponent today is the Connecticut Sun. Curt Miller and friends are hoping to go on a big run that will carry them into the postseason and beyond. They hosted the Aces in a marquee matchup on ABC Sunday afternoon, and lost 91-83.
Where to follow the game
YES Network has us covered. Hope you have your lunch handy as tip is after 11 a.m.
Betnijah Laney is out. Jocelyn Willoughby has been out with a left quadriceps tendon injury, but is cleared to return and is set to be making her return today.
Jasmine Thomas is out for the season after tearing her ACL. Jonquel Jones is in COVID protocols and out for this contest.
After you get washed like the Liberty did on Thursday, you have a lot to work on. For starters, the team has to come out with a lot more focus to begin the game. Over the past few games, the Liberty have found themselves down double digits and had to expend so much energy fighting to get back into games. After Thursday, Sandy Brondello floated the idea of changing the starting five. Our pal, Heaven Hill of Her Hoop Stats, makes the case for Sami Whitcomb to reenter the starting five:
So, why not put Sami Whitcomb back in the starting lineup? The seasoned veteran started 28 out of 30 games last year, averaging career highs across the board in her first season wearing seafoam. This year, she was named captain of the squad, but has only started in six of her 23 appearances. A threat to score from anywhere on the perimeter, Whitcomb lit it up on Tuesday, draining five threes in the third quarter alone as she willed the team back into the game.
She became the first Liberty player since 2006 to hit five triples in a quarter and tied the league record for threes in a third quarter, putting on a shooting masterclass. In Volume 2 of the notebook, we broke down how great the Liberty looked with one of Dangerfield or Johannès on the court with Sabrina, allowing her to play off the ball and take some of the pressure off her in the halfcourt.
That’s a great idea, but I’m a bigger fan of re-inserting Rebecca Allen into the starting five now that she’s back. Bec would give the team someone who is a good cutter and finisher at the basket, which is something the team needs a lot more of. But perhaps more importantly, it gives the team size defensively and their best defensive player back playing her regular minutes. Prior to her injury, Allen around 29 minutes a game and now that she’s getting her rhythm back, she might be due to return to that level of workload. And with Willoughby back, Sandy Brondello has one more option to work with.
Whoever starts for the Liberty will have to deal with DeWanna Bonner. DB is top 25 in scoring this season and she can get busy in the midrange area, as she’s knocked down 42 percent of her shots in that area. She's even better inside the restricted area, so the Liberty will look to keep her on the perimeter as much as they can. Bonner and Courtney Williams are the main bucket getters on the Sun
Alyssa Thomas had a day to forget on Sunday afternoon. She committed a franchise record nine turnovers and had more turnovers than the Aces combined (eight). Eek! As a squad, the Sun have the second highest turnover percentage in the league at a shade over 19 percent and in July, have coughed it up almost 21 percent of the time. Connecticut being loose with the ball can get the Liberty some opportunities to get easy buckets in transition. As Sabrina Ionescu noted in the Tuesday game against the Aces, the team getting stops on defense helped them out, and if they can handle business on that end, they’ll have a chance to succeed on the other end.
The three point line will be essential tonight. The Liberty are tops in the WNBA in threes attempted per game and are fifth in efficiency while the Sun are 11th in attempts and eighth in efficiency. If the Liberty are able to get it going from deep, they’ll be able to keep the Sun at bay.
You can never have enough good players, and the Sun picked up Bria Hartley off the waiver wire on Monday. Hartley played ten games for the Indiana Fever, but struggled on that rebuilding team. At Uproxx, our pal Mark Schindler has more on Hartley’s game:
While Hartley isn’t the quickest guard (part of what makes her a combo) she pushes the break, generates a paint touch, and then relocates after moving the ball, culminating in a three point make. She doesn’t put a massive dent in the defense, but with her quick decisions and quality movement without the ball, she’s capable of starting sets and playing as a vital cog in an offense built around four players were ideally set up by a complimentary ball-handler.
Now that she’s on a title contender and further away from her 2020 ACL injury, Curt Miller and the Sun hope that she’s one of the final pieces left to their championship puzzle.
Player to watch: Brionna Jones
The great thing about having an All Star coming off the bench is when your superstar is out, you can slide an All Star into the starting five and keep the party going. Brionna Jones was named to her second straight All Star Game, and it was a well deserved honor. On the season, BJ is averaging around 14 points and five rebounds a night off the bench while shooting close to 57 percent from the field. She can step out to about 15 feet, but she’s most effective on the inside near the rim. The Liberty were able to match the Sun on the boards in the last contest, and they’re going to need to do so one more time if they want to get the win.
The rest of the Liberty hope to follow Natasha Howard’s lead. Howard and Michaela Onyenwere were the only Liberty players that had played with intensity and energy against the Aces. Howard was excellent in both games against Las Vegas, and they’ll need their All Star to do it again today. As a team, the Liberty have shown a great deal of resiliency throughout the year and after three straight losses, they’ll be looking to right the ship today.