Another one on the board. The New York Liberty had revenge on their minds as they went south to take on the Atlanta Dream. They got everything back and then some with a wire to wire 110-80 victory on Friday night. Things are going to get harder for the Liberty starting today, but they’re ready for it.
The opponent today is looking to climb the standings as well. The Washington Mystics are feeling good after they blew out the Chicago Sky by 21 points on Thursday night. To get a little more familiar with Washington, Misha Jones of Sirius XM joined our pal Erica Ayala of Black Rosie Media on the latest episode of Gotta Get Up podcast
Where to follow the game
ABC is the place to be. Party gets started after 1 PM.
Stefanie Dolson left Friday’s game late with an ankle injury, and will miss this contest. Han Xu is playing at the Asia Cup and will be back within the next few weeks.
Li Meng is also at the Asia Cup and will be back soon. Kristi Toliver is out with plantar fascitis.
Washington won the first meeting on Opening Night.
For those attending the game at the ‘clays, give some extra love to the concession workers that are trying to get better healthcare benefits and improved pay in their negotiations with Levy Management. As a worker told me on Thursday,
“We provide a great experience in this building and we deserve affordable health insurance and we deserve better wages.”
It’s been a bit of a slog on offense for the Mystics. Coming into this game, they find themselves 11th in the WNBA in offensive rating, scoring just 95.1 points per 100 possessions. It’s been a slog, but Eric Thibault might have figured something out. Over at Swish Appeal, Josh Felton made this observation:
Using the struggling shooters as screeners and cutters in these actions has allowed for them to stay involved on that end while also allowing for the best creators to shine.
Movement is key, and the Liberty will have to maintain their communication and connectivity on defense.
In the first game, the Liberty turned it over a season high 22 times. The Mystics lead the WNBA in opponent’s turnover rate, so the Liberty will need to be careful managing the ball. If they can prevent the Mystics from getting out in transition, they’ll control the flow of the game.
Without Dolson, we’ll see how Sandy Brondello manages the frontcourt minutes. Nyara Sabally figures to get an uptick in minutes, but with Jonquel Jones finding her groove, she’ll handle the bulk of the minutes at the five. JJ established the interior for the Liberty early on Friday and the team’s attack blossomed from there. Jones will be defended by Shakira Austin. The sophomore has added a bit more to her repertoire and is 12th in the W in rebounding this season. If the Liberty keep Austin off the boards and can win the battle in the paint, it’ll help their chances a great deal.
The marquee matchup will be at the four between Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart. EDD is on track to add another 50/40/90 season to her ledger, as she’s tenth in the league in scoring at 18.4 points a night on .477/.424/.952 shooting splits. Delle Donne can score from everywhere on the court and was excellent in the first meeting between these teams. Stewart struggled in that game, but it’s been a masterful season for the Liberty superstar. She’s second in the W in scoring at 22.9 a night on .494/.397/.833 splits. Not to be outdone, Stewie leads the league in rebounding, fourth in blocks, seventh in steals, and 13th in assists. Stewart
Player to watch: Natasha Cloud
For all the struggles the Mystics have had on offense, it has not carried over to the defense. The ‘stics lead the W in defensive rating, allowing only 90.7 points per 100 possessions. Cloud is a critical part of that as the former first team All Defensive player leads this elite unit. With the athleticism the Mystics posses on the perimeter, they are matchup problems for any team they go up against. On the other side, the Liberty hope to keep her on the perimeter. Cloud’s three point shot hasn’t been there yet as she’s only shooting 27.8 percent from downtown. She’s managed to still be effective on offense as she’s eighth in the W in assists and is shooting a career high 88.9 percent from the free throw line. We talked about the Liberty maintaining that connectivity on defense earlier, and they’ll need to maintain that as they try to keep Cloud out of the paint and off the free throw line.
Courtney Vandersloot had the offense humming perfectly on Friday night. Sloot tied her season high in assists with 11 and her career high seven steals jump started the Liberty transition attack every time you looked up. With so many weapons in the starting five and coming off the bench, Vandersloot always manages to keep things organized and finds her teammates in the perfect position.
If you’re open, Sloot will make it happen.
From the Vault
I’m in a Phyllis Hyman mood this morning. That’s a good place to be