Everyone loses, we know that. At the same time, how you lose can say a lot about you. If you have a bad break here or there, we can understand. However, if you fall apart when victory is within your reach, then the concern level has to go up a few notches.
On Thursday morning, the New York Liberty hit the road to face the Connecticut Sun. Despite not getting a friendly whistle (the Sun finally got called for their first foul of the game in the third quarter and out shot the Liberty at the free throw line 24-6 on the day), Sandy Brondello’s club hung tough in the first 30 minutes of the game and trailed by three entering the fourth quarter. It was there that everything fell apart.
In the fourth, the Liberty only shot 4-14 from the field and committed six turnovers, and the Sun took full advantage. On the day, New York coughed it up 19 times and Connecticut scored 23 points off of those turnovers. Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb were the biggest culprits on that end as they coughed it 11 times in this game.
The Sun were able to withstand the absence of Jonquel Jones, who is currently in COVID protocols, and used a dominant fourth quarter to come away with an 82-63 victory in their own Camp Day.
Going into the game, we noted that the Liberty needed to match the Sun on the glass if they wanted to win. They weren’t able to do as the Sun won the rebound battle by 13 and scored 16 second chance points. Some of that was due to the team going to zone after halftime (which worked well), but the frontcourt tag team of Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas dominated the glass as they grabbed 21 rebounds between them. Rebounds and turnovers will doom any team and it did for the Liberty this afternoon. Sabrina Ionescu spoke about that and said:
Sabrina Ionescu on Sun's advantages in fast break (25-12) and second-chance (16-9) points: "I think it was an accumulation of a lot of things, but those don’t help in clutch moments, when o-boards lead to kick out threes." @Winsidr #OwnTheCrown #WNBA— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) July 19, 2022
The loss was the Liberty’s fourth in a row and they now find themselves in 11th place with 11 games. For what it’s worth, they’re within striking distance of the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds with games left against everyone in front of them in August, but they’ll need to start stacking up wins to get the good feeling back.
Sandy Brondello spoke about the message she gave to the team in the locker room following the game, and said:
“We’re right there. Sometimes we’re own worst enemy because we turn the ball over, which is mind boggling and we don’t need to. It’s the experienced players that were doing it. That’s deflating when they’re getting such easy baskets and it was hard for us to score. They were putting a lot of pressure on Sabrina [Ionescu]. We need all our best players to play well for us to win. We know that. For me, we’ve just gotta work it out. We were right there until the third quarter and fourth quarter, and all of a sudden, [the Sun] just went crazy. We didn’t have good decisions on that end and we didn’t execute down on the other end, and Carrington comes off the bench and makes easy baskets. It’s simple stuff. We can’t get too high or too low. It’s a very emotional team, and we just gotta hang in there. Still a lot of games to be played, so we gotta hang in there.”
For as rough as the team looked in the fourth, Brondello is 100 percent right. The team put forth a gritty effort before things went haywire, and they’re going to need to bring that energy into games the rest of the season. They have to control the controllables, and that starts with taking care of the basketball.
After the loss to the Aces on Thursday, Sandy Brondello mentioned that she was thinking of making a lineup switch. And sure enough, she followed through by reinserting Rebecca Allen into the starting five. Allen had her best game since coming back as she scored seven points, grabbed five rebounds, two assists, and and tied a season high with three blocks.
The more Allen is back to playing like herself, the more downhill options the Liberty have.
In postgame, Brondello noted that Michaela Onyenwere didn’t play because she’s dealing with a day-to-day injury and was advised by the training staff to hold her out with the hope that she’ll be good for Thursday’s game.
Not having Onyenwere limited the team’s options, and they broke out Didi Richards x Allen in the frontcourt together for the first time all season due to Stefanie Dolson being a bit under the weather. They don’t have much practice time available to them this week as they’re traveling up and down the East Coast, so the squad is hoping they have enough chemistry already baked in to work through it.
Welcome back, Jocelyn!
Jocelyn Willoughby returned to the court after being away for months due to her left quadriceps injury. She only played 10 minutes, but gave good effort and energy in her time out there. In postgame, we asked Stefanie Dolson about her teammate’s return and she said:
Stef Dolson on Jocelyn Willoughby: "We're all really happy to have her back. Glad to see her playing again. Just her physicality, her aggressiveness. We'll just continue to push her. Just really glad to see her back." (Q: @busyxb) #OwnTheCrown #WNBA— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) July 19, 2022
Willoughby gives the Liberty another option at the four, and the team will need her to spell Natasha Howard and give them more physicality and toughness on the roster.
The Liberty have one more Camp Day to go, as they’re heading to DC to face the Washington Mystics on Thursday morning. Tip off after 11:30 a.m.