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Liberty go wire-to-win in dominant road win over the Dream

WNBA: JUN 23 New York Liberty at Atlanta Dream Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The best days are when everything is working the way you want it. You woke up feeling good after a nice, restful night. The weather’s nice, the vibes are nicer, and all your folks are feeling great. It gives you an extra pep in your step and when you get to work. And things get even better when you have a kickass day at the office.

The New York Liberty have been off for the past few days after beating the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday afternoon. That win improved their record to 7-3 on the young WNBA season. They were looking to get some payback after the Atlanta Dream beat them last week. They did that and THEN some with a dominant 110-80 victory in the ATL. In fact, this was the Liberty’s second straight wire-to-wire victory. This is the first time since 2001 that the Liberty have started the season 8-3. Good teams, and great teams win by a lot.

Sandy Brondello has talked a lot about going from paint to great. When you have success by the basket, everything else opens up for you all over the court. Jonquel Jones made her presence felt as soon as the ball tipped off. JJ hit two threes to start off and then went to work in the post.

Atlanta is undersized, which made it all the more frustrating when the Liberty couldn’t own the boards in the game at Barclays last week. In pregame, Brondello specifically highlighted the rebounding battle as something she stressed to the group in preparation for this contest. The Liberty won the battle of the boards, 42-37, and held the Dream to only ten second chance points. It’s one thing to play great defense initially, but completing the possession and securing the board allows you to control the flow of the game. In post, JJ alluded to wanting to be better on the boards following that game. She also shouted out the balanced attack and noted that being able to score at all three levels will be essential as we go.

Ball movement is the name of the game, and the Liberty had the rock zipping all over the hardwood

On the night, the team had 29 assists to 36 made field goals. They made a season high 17 three pointers on a season high 48.6 percent from downtown. They got a lot of their looks off of great ball movement, but also through purposeful movement without the ball

Marine Johannes brought the magic off the bench to the tune of 18 points on 5-7 shooting from three point range. Just when you think dealing with the starting five is hard enough, here comes MJ hitting threes all over the court. Whew!

As the Liberty will tell you, they sometimes let go of the rope when they go up by a bunch. They let teams creep back in and then have to turn it back on to pull away late. That was not the case tonight as they never let the lead get under 15 points after halftime. Sandy Brondello praised the team’s commitment to excellence and their buy in to the scout and playing style. That buy in for all 40 minutes allows the Liberty to always press the advantage and sharpen their skills.

There was one sad moment for the team as Stefanie Dolson left the game late in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. In postgame, Sandy Brondello didn’t have an update on Dolson as of yet. Hopefully the injury isn’t too bad and Dolson is doing OK.

All purpose Bee

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

You can sometimes forget how awesome Betnijah Laney is. Her presence was missed on the court throughout much of 2022 as a knee injury kept her out of action for most of the season. Bee is back and is leading a solid Liberty defense. On the night, the Liberty forced 20 Atlanta turnovers and scored 27 points off said turnovers. I asked Bee about the work on defense the team did, and she said:

Laney gets the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best player, and she had the responsibility of guarding Dream star Rhyne Howard. Howard actually led the game in scoring with 24 points on 6-13 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line, but Laney and the Liberty forced her into five turnovers and made every shot attempt tough

Effort and teamwork like that goes a long way in guarding elite players on the other side. Laney’s defense on the perimeter has been essential for the Liberty and something they’ve turned to a lot this season.

Bee also shouted out the awesome play of Courtney Vandersloot. The General had it going to the tune of 16 points, 11 assists, and a career high seven steals. The Liberty had a lot of success in transition as they punished Atlanta every time they made a mistake.

Bee was asked about Vandersloot’s play, and she said:

With Laney guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player and Vandersloot patrolling the passing lanes, New York’s defense is better than you would think. And they’ll have TWO Defensive Player of the Year candidates!

Not to be outdone, Bee can get you buckets as well! The beauty of having a three level scorer like Laney is you can put the ball in her hands and trust her to get you a good shot when she’s hunting for it.

On the night, Laney finished with a smooth 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 23 minutes. The depth and unselfishness on this roster has really stood out so far. Everyone’s pulling in the right direction and making sure each person is in the best position to succeed.

The next level

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

We are officially one quarter of the way through the season, and things are looking good for the Liberty. The team is getting better by the day and are starting to round into shape as they head into a tougher part of the schedule. At shootaround on Friday morning, I asked Nyara Sabally what’s been the biggest takeaway from camp to this quarter point of the year, and she said:

“For me, since it’s my first year, my first time playing in the league, I’ll say the biggest takeaway is that at the end of the day, it’s just basketball and you just have to be free and play. You’re here for a reason and people put the trust in you, they’ve trusted you throughout this whole time. So that’s just my biggest takeaway that at the end of the day, it’s just basketball at a higher level, so just do your game and play the way you know you can play it.”

Jocelyn Willoughby added:

“I would also say the biggest takeaway I think, both individually and collectively, as a team is just to focus on growing each day. It’s not always gonna be pretty. It’s not always going to be easy. It’s not going to be the most fun thing in the world. But I think really focusing on the ways in which are growing each day because we’ve had games that haven’t been great for us. But we’ve also seen bits of growth from them and to get to where we want to go at the end of the season, we just have to continue to build and grow.”

The road will get tougher from here, but the Liberty are learning and growing along the way. At 8-3, they’re in a great position and excited to keep building on the good vibes.

Next up

Dallas Wings v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Liberty head back home for an afternoon affair against the Washington Mystics on Sunday afternoon. Tip after 1:00 p.m. ET at the ‘clays.