It’s always frustrating when you give stuff away. You keep it close and hang around, but mental mistakes make the job harder to complete. With time, those mistakes go away. However, in the immediate moment, all you can do is walk away frustrated at a missed opportunity.
On Sunday afternoon, the New York Liberty began a three-game road trip that will carry them into the All Star break. The first opponent on this journey was the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks used a big third quarter to jump ahead and while the Liberty got as close as one point midway through the fourth quarter, they weren’t able to bring it home and lost to the Sparks, 84-74.
In the postgame, Sandy Brondello was direct when she was asked about the team’s third quarter struggles tonight and said:
“We didn’t play as a team, to be quite honest. We didn’t come out of the locker room and play the way that we needed to. It starts on the defensive end, but we were worried about our offense. We weren’t getting the best shots, we were talking about good to great [shots]. We didn’t play as a team, simple as that. LA are playing well, momentum changed, and we couldn’t get it back.”
The big number of this game was 17. That was the number of turnovers the Liberty had on the night (with 16 of them in the first three quarters of this game) and the Sparks took full advantage by scoring 18 points off of those turnovers. This possession typified the issues the Liberty had as the Sparks hedged a Sabrina Ionescu x Stefanie Dolson pick and roll:
Live ball turnovers always spell danger and self inflicted turnovers always irk the soul a bit more. Brondello noted that the ball didn’t move as quickly out of play actions, which played into Los Angeles’ hands as they jumped the passing lanes and preyed on the Liberty holding on to the rock one beat longer than necessary.
The team were practically doubled up in the paint as LA won that battle, 42-22. Despite that, there were some nice moments inside for the visitors:
We were curious if the team settled for jumpers too much, so we asked Sabrina Ionescu. Here’s what she told us:
“No, I don’t think we settled. I thought we got really good shots. [The Sparks are] big. They’re a big team with an inside presence. We got shots we wanted. Obviously, we needed to get to the line more and needed to continue to figure out ways to get the ball inside. But, we had to take what the defense gave us and a lot of our shots just didn’t fall tonight.”
As teams continue to play physical defense on the Liberty and throw their best shots at them, they’ll need to continue to meet the moment and bring the energy all 40 minutes long. That starts with getting into the paint, playing with strength, and force the issue and adapt to the way the game is officiated.
In the pregame, Sandy Brondello provided an update on injured All Star, Betnijah Laney. Brondello reported that Laney has been individual drills in practice and is still on track to make her return from knee surgery at the end of July.
Sami Whitcomb was given today off for rest, but was seen on the Liberty sidelines with a walking boot on her left foot. She wasn’t listed on the injury report and all signs point to her playing on Wednesday, and Brondello said that she’s dealing with a small ankle issue, but is OK.
Rebecca Allen returned from concussion protocol and looked great. However, her night was cut short after she was inadvertently struck in the face by a Chiney Ogwumike elbow in the first quarter. It was a scary scene as Bec fell to the floor and had to be assisted to the bench by her teammates, Betnijah Laney and Jocelyn Willoughby. Adam Miller of Winsidr was at the arena and observed Allen on the exercise bike prior to the halftime break
Bec Allen looks to be doing much better after taking a hard shot in the mouth from Chiney Ogwumike. Possibly returning in the second half? pic.twitter.com/Je2eoddb3I— Adam Miller (@ajmil0) July 3, 2022
Allen did sit on the sideline with her teammates after the break. However, she was ruled out as she was being evaluated for a concussion. In postgame, Brondello reported that Allen passed all of the concussion tests, but the team sat her down as a precaution.
MJ shines once again
Marine Johannes was the Liberty’s brightest star on offense as her 17 points (5-9 from three point range) led the Liberty attack. In the postgame, Ionescu spoke about her teammate and how she’s been able to quickly adapt to the offense:
“I think we’re all so very familiar with her style of play, but I think the offense really suits her strength. She’s a great passer out of the pick and roll, she also is a great shooter so it helps spreading the floor out and being able to get shots off the pick and roll and just also off of our penetration. She’s doing a great job of just continuing to find windows and obviously a great shooter for us, and it also helps. Her ability to create her own shot is really impressive and we’re gonna continue to figure out ways to get her the ball, because she’s shooting I think around 40 percent from three (fact check: MJ is shooting 49 percent from three!!) and so we have to continue to find her and get her those shots because it’s a good shot for us.”
As MJ continues to play well, she’ll take on an even bigger role for this Liberty team. Once the team gets back to full strength, they’ll really be able to take off.
The road trip continues on Wednesday evening as the Liberty will be in Las Vegas to take on the Aces. Late night affair so we’re getting started after 10:00 p.m. ET.