It’s a beautiful feeling when everything breaks right. You wake up feeling good, you’ve prepared for the day ahead, and you have a sense of calm. There’s a good aura around you and you’re feeling confident that you’re about to win the day. When it all comes together, it feels like magic.
It was a beautiful day for basketball on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. The weather was gorgeous, the vibes were perfect, and the New York Liberty were back. The home team lost the first night of their 40-date tour on Friday night against the Washington Mystics, but today was a day to get back in rhythm. The young Indiana Fever were in town, and they got a front row seat to a dominant Liberty showing as they won 90-73 in front of an electric, sold-out Barclays Center crowd.
To have a dominant win like this, you need your defense to be locked in. On Friday, the Liberty had some communication issues which led to the Mystics getting easy baskets in transition. New York cleaned that up this afternoon and held Indy to 36/25/76 shooting splits. They forced the Fever into 15 turnovers and turned them into crowd pleasing highlights for the hometown faithful.
And when you complete defensive possessions and get out on the run, great things are bound to happen
Sandy Brondello was impressed with the improvement on defense and said:
Sandy Brondello on holding Indiana to 36% shooting: "Really proud -- that's a focus for us. I thought we played with more urgency and toughness. That takes five players committed. We had great players. And Stewie was pretty good on both ends of the floor." @Winsidr— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 21, 2023
We’ll have much more on Stewie in a bit.
Coming into the game, Kelsey Mitchell was someone that the Liberty had their eyes on. She was sixth in the W in scoring last season and can heat up in a hurry. Although she scored 10 points on the night, the Liberty held her to 4-12 shooting from the field and kept her scoreless in the first half. The Liberty defense came ready to play and they deserve credit.
The sign of a great team is when you can snuff out a rally before it really takes shape. The Fever had cut the Liberty lead down to 17 points with 4:11 to go before halftime. The Fever weren’t all the way back in it, but were starting to make some progress. However, the Liberty used an extended 16-6 run to head into halftime with an insurmountable 27 point lead.
Good teams win, and great teams win big. In post, I asked Brondello about maintaining that momentum and keeping a team down for the count:
“It was really important. When you get an early lead, that’s when complacency can sneak in. And that’s what we focused on. This is all about what we’re doing. Let’s execute the scout to the best of our ability and and get it back. So it’s just more of a mindset really, defensively. Now at the start of the third, I didn’t think we were great coming out of the locker room. They got way more aggressive. They got really easy baskets in transition. So [I] took a quick timeout, but then the flow changed a little bit. We just focused on that. We can’t relax, not in this league. There’s too many great players. You’re up by 20, it doesn’t matter. We handled that, we didn’t come out well, but we handled it and we were able to make adjustments quickly and then get back that lead so we could go to the bench in the fourth quarter.”
It’s important to stay locked in for the entirety of a game. When you start letting your guard down, that’s when teams can surprise you and go on big, crowd deflating runs. As the Liberty continue building their chemistry and putting the pieces together, they’re going to need to dominate early and often so they can have stress free fourth quarters.
Aliyah Boston has settled in nicely to begin her WNBA journey. The top pick from this year’s Draft has gotten off to a nice start in her pro career and played well on Sunday. She had 15 points, two blocks, and this impressive finish in the low post over Stefanie Dolson:
Aliyah Boston never backs down in the paint. pic.twitter.com/Nb7wUvPR8X— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) May 21, 2023
In postgame, Sandy Brondello was asked about Aliyah’s performance and said:
“I was impressed with Boston. I think she’s a really strong body. She finished really well at the rim. She was a handful for us. I wanted to try and bring some more traps, but she still found a way. I know they kicked it out on one of the traps and got a wide open three, so she’s gonna keep getting better and better with the more experience she gets.”
How about another? Working through the double team to find Kelsey Mitchell for the 3: https://t.co/m53ZJIKQ6a pic.twitter.com/Y2pFahKfRi— Tony East (@TonyREast) May 21, 2023
The Liberty see Boston on July 12, right before the All Star break. We’re excited to see how much her game has grown by then.
Welcome to Stew York City
Breanna Stewart is one of the greatest basketball players to ever touch the hardwood. She’s dominated at every level here in the United States and abroad. When she signed with the Liberty, the paradigm of the WNBA shifted. And on Sunday, she put on a show for the ages.
Stewart set a career high and Liberty franchise record with 45 points on the afternoon. The offense was locked in early as everyone was involved and the ball was hopping
Sab ➡️ Stewie ➡️ Sloot ➡️ B pic.twitter.com/y5WK0qBwTo— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) May 21, 2023
Stewart was dialed in early as she singlehandedly outscored the Fever 19-14 in the first quarter. The beautiful thing about Stewart’s game was that all of her baskets came within the flow of the offense.
Liberty have some work to do but again you can just end possessions with Jonquel Jones screening for Sabrina with Breanna Stewart on the weakside rising from the corner to the wing. pic.twitter.com/wMbDjftAeK— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) May 21, 2023
Having to account for Jonquel Jones rolling to the basket only to momentarily forget that BREANNA STEWART is open for three is hell on Earth for opposing defenses. Oh, my, my, my
The Fever were up for the challenge as Lexie Hull battled with Stewie as best as she could, but when it’s your night, it’s your night
HISTORY‼️@breannastewart has officially broken the franchise record with 41 PTS in a single game pic.twitter.com/Em825NuY1y— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) May 21, 2023
Stewart joins Minnesota Lynx x UCONN Huskies legend and future Hall of Famer, Maya Moore, as the only players in WNBA history with 45 points, ten rebounds, and six three pointers made in a single game. With a game like this, you’re entitled to a heat check every now and again...
In postgame, Stewart was asked about making a first impression for the Brooklyn faithful, and she said:
“It was really important to play like this in my debut, because I want people to be here and I want them to come back and I want more. I want more of everything and yes I’m selfish, but as a woman’s basketball player, as a female athlete, we need to continue to kind of get recognized for more and in a lot of different ways, and in media coverage, and in fans and eyes and viewership. So, hopefully I made a few first impressions on some people, and I hope they come back and come back with more.”
In an interview with Front Office Sports, Stewie noted that women’s sports receive less than 5% of media coverage. In addition to the sold out Barclays Center (with a guest appearance by Mikal Bridges of the Brooklyn Nets), the interview room in the postgame was filled to capacity as reporters on site and over Zoom were on hand to take in history. Good sports deserve good coverage and it’s up to us in the media to catalogue the players’ stories and document all the excellence we get to witness on a daily basis. Games like this reverberate and as the Liberty continue playing well, Brooklyn will be out in full force to support them.
When you have a game like today, you wonder what did they eat in the morning so they could have such a performance like this?! Ace reporter, Pepper Persley, asked Stewie and here’s what she said:
Stewie: "For breakfast, I had toast with cream cheese on it. Omelette with cheese. Bacon. Potatoes, I dunno, roasted potatoes. And fruit.”@teampersley: "Good, because that’s what I’m having before my next game."— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 21, 2023
Sabrina: “Me too, can you make me that? I’m coming over.”
If you’re wondering what I had for breakfast on Sunday morning, it was leftover grilled hanger steak with crispy potatoes, truffle fries (shouts to The Franklin in Jersey City) and a cup of sparkling water. I need to get like Stewie from now on!
The Liberty have a few days off before they face off against the Connecticut Sun at the Clays. Tip off will be after 1:00 p.m. ET on May 27th.
- Box Score: New York Liberty 90, Indiana Fever 73 - WNBA
- Game Highlights: New York Liberty 90, Indiana Fever 73 (Video) - WNBA
- Highlights: Breanna Stewart scores career and franchise high 45 points (Video) - WNBA
- Breanna Stewart discusses big win (Video) - Meghan Triplett - YES Network
- The 2023 New York Liberty introduction (Video) - YES Network
- Breanna Stewart sets Liberty scoring record with 45 points in win over Fever - Brian Heyman - Newsday
- Breanna Stewart’s 45 points break Liberty scoring record in 90-73 win in home opener - Filfi Frimpong - New York Daily News
- Liberty’s Breanna Stewart scores 45 points in win vs. Fever, breaks franchise single-game points record - Ben Pickman - The Athletic
- Liberty’s Breanna Stewart drops 45 in 3 quarters in home debut - ESPN
- Welcome to the Era of W.N.B.A. Superteams. New Stars Need Not Apply. - Talya Minsberg - New York Times
- Stew Era: Liberty Flush Fever, Breanna Stewart Gets 45 in Brooklyn Debut - Geoff Magliocchetti - Sports Illustrated
- Breanna Stewart Astounds WNBA Fans, Sets Liberty Single-Game Scoring Record vs. Fever - Joseph Zucker - Bleacher Report
- Breanna Stewart Sets Liberty Scoring Record with 45 PTS in 90-73 Win - New York Liberty