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Mystics hand Liberty their fifth straight loss

New York Liberty v Washington Mystics Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Growing pains are always difficult. You see the big picture and have a goal that’s within your grasp. However, bad breaks at the worst time get in the way and add to your sense of frustration.

Thursday morning, the New York Liberty played their third and final Camp Day game, this time against the Washington Mystics. They fought hard, but the Mystics were too tough to handle and handed New York their fifth straight loss, 78-69.

In pregame, Sandy Brondello mentioned she wanted the team to cut down on its fouls in order to keep their opponents off the free throw line. They actually accomplished that as the Mystics only took 18 free throws, which is an improvement for a Liberty team that allowed teams to shoot over 20 free throws a game in eight straight games (per our guy Myles Ehrlich). With that said, 18 is still a lot and they’ll need to cut that down if they want to win.

After a third quarter that saw the Liberty go cold, they went on a 10-0 run to get back within three points. They broke out a zone defense again, and it proved to be successful in stymieing the Mystics attack. They were within striking distance the rest of the way, but the Mystics proved to be too much as they made a series of tough shots that kept New York at bay.

Elena Delle Donne is one of the most difficult to defend players in basketball and she led all scorers with 25 points on a .571/.500/1.000 shooting split.

As the Liberty fought back into this one, you could see the signs of a team that had more fight today than in previous games. The schedule won’t get any easier so they are going to need to keep that energy and aggressiveness along with some better execution if they want to snap this streak.

Push It

New York Liberty v Washington Mystics Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Liberty got off to a 12-0 lead to start the game, they were able to do it by playing quickly and attacking the paint. Crystal Dangerfield was integral to that as her five assists helped the Liberty establish themselves on the inside and keep the tempo where they wanted it.

That’s what you wanna see. Two feet in the paint, timely cuts, and success.

We asked Sandy about Dangerfield’s game tonight, and she told us:

With defenses looking to put more pressure on the Liberty and baiting them into turnovers,

Curiously, the team didn’t take a single shot inside the restricted area in the third quarter, and they wound up struggling as a result.

“I suppose you can say we’re not really built to break you down. [Sabrina Ionescu’s] probably our best one at getting into the paint at the moment and we’re still trying to find ways where we can get into the paint. It just flattens out the defense. When we did get in there, I thought we had really good success. You would’ve seen Sami [Whitcomb] late in the game, she got into the paint and got a wide open three. So that’s why we keep encouraging that. So it’s more about having an aggressive mentality and players - we got a lot of shooters but sometimes they need to get two feet in the paint because Washington rotates and scrambles well. Can’t change who we got so we need to play to what we have.”

As we come down the stretch, if the Liberty are able to get downhill more, that will open up a world of possibilities on offense.

Free BG

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: A new mural in Washington DC featuri Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Sandy Brondello and Liberty players attended the unveiling of a mural dedicated to Brittney Griner and other Americans that are detained abroad. Brondello about being there and said

“It was great [to be there], just being in the right place at the right time. BG is someone that obviously love dearly and its unfortunate the situation that she’s in and I hope that we can get her home soon. But to meet some of the families, that was actually quite touching and to realize so many other stories - that was me probably being a little bit ignorant [of their situations], I am Australian. But BG, I think, has put it at the forefront all these other people that are wrongfully detained overseas. There’s 65 [people detained overseas], but there’s only 18 on the mural. I think we’ve gotta put their names out there a little bit more. But meeting families, it makes it really real. These are fathers, brothers, sons, a lot of different things and hopefully that they can all come home soon.

It’s bigger than basketball.

Keep ya head up

New York Liberty v Washington Mystics Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Even with the losses, the team is staying connected and maintaining a positive outlook. Jackie Powell of The Next (and Andraya Carter on the YES broadcast) observed Natasha Howard proving Marine Johannes words of encouragement after she committed a late turnover. As one of the leaders of the team, Tash spoke of the sisterhood that’s developed on the team and notes that even in their current struggles, she tells her teammates not to get in their own heads. We asked if the Liberty’s 10-0 fourth quarter run can be the springboard for this team and a sign that they can hang with elite teams:

“Absolutely, absolutely. That’s one thing Betnijah [Laney] said in the locker room after the game that the way we played, we’ve just gotta keep building. We gotta keep building and we can beat any team. That’s one thing we can build on from this game going into the Chicago game.”

Not having Laney’s on court leadership has been a major loss for the Liberty this season. She’s making her way back, and when she does return, she’ll give the Liberty a boost of scoring, playmaking, and leadership. Team’s just gotta hang in and keep fighting in the mean time.

Technical difficulties

To be a sports fan means you have to jump through a lot of hoops. You gotta buy the league pass, have the team on your local television coverage, have access to major networks like ESPN so you can watch the team on national TV games, etc. etc. etc. So, when a game is blacked out on league pass, you only have one viewing option. And when that option is compromised...

Sigh. So Liberty fans watching on the app missed the entire third quarter and first four minutes of the fourth thanks to that. Sports leagues need to make the games more accessible and avoid calamities like today.

Next up

Seattle Storm v Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty will finally be back playing at a normal time! The Chicago Sky will be up next on the marquee Saturday evening at Barclays Center. Tip at 7:00 p.m. ET.