You ever felt like you were in a daze? Things are happening around you and you can’t stop it. What you envisioned going right is going all the way wrong and there’s no getting back on track. And when you think you might’ve finally snapped out of your daze, it’s too late.
On Sunday afternoon, the New York Liberty played the back half of a home-and-home set with the Chicago Sky. Everything was going right for the Liberty and they were doing what they do. They had walled off the paint, forced the Sky into tough shots, and built a lead as big as 19 points. It looked like New York was on their way to their fifth straight win. However, they got stuck in the mud. All of the success they had started to disappear and the Sky kept on pushing the issue. The Liberty fell behind in the fourth, but tied it up at 76 deep into the quarter. However, it was not their day and the Sky used a 10-4 run to seal the deal and walk away with an 86-82 victory.
Something Sandy Brondello has stressed to the team before is to not try and make home run plays. If you try and get everything back at once, put too much pressure on yourself, or rush into things, the mistakes will pile up
The Liberty were not as careful with the basketball in the second half, and their nine turnovers took away opportunities to find great shots on offense or control the flow of the game. Brondello mentioned in post-game that their shot profile in the second half was “terrible,” they didn’t get Breanna Stewart enough touches, became a bit complacent after getting a big lead, and they went away from what was working for them. Courtney Vandersloot explained their late game struggles and what they can do better in the future:
“It just felt like the momentum shifted. Things weren’t really going our way. You know, we were out there trying to make plays. Give credit to [the Sky]. We were kind of a little bit out of sorts. Going forward, we have to execute better especially when the momentum has shifted and we can kind of feel it. You know, the crowd was on our side. We have to use that to our advantage and kind of just get the momentum shifted back to our way and execute. We obviously need to get Stewie better looks when things like that are happening. She’s going to be somebody that we’re gonna rely a lot on it in credit crunch time. She just didn’t get the looks and that’s on me.”
Sabrina Ionescu echoed that as well...
Losing sucks, but there’s something the Liberty can learn from this experience. The team is still trying to find its way, and games like these are reminders that for all of their early success so far, there’s still plenty of room to get better. A loss like this demands you be better going forward, and the Liberty
Stewart almost pulled them out of the fire ... again, but her late game heroics weren’t enough to seal the deal.
Stewart finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in 33 minutes. She only took 14 shots, and for a large part of the Sky comeback, didn’t get the ball in her hands. As Vandersloot and Brondello mentioned, it’s on everyone to be better in a variety of ways and to get the ball to their ace when things are getting tight.
Ultimately, the game turned because of Kahleah Copper. We’ve seen Copper dominate on the big stage before as she was the MVP in the 2021 WNBA Finals. The Liberty held her in check on Friday as she only went 8-of-19 from the field. The first half was more of the same as she only went 3-of-8 from the field and had two turnovers.
However, great players always figure it out, and in the second half, Copper heated up in a major way. She scored 17 of her game high 27 points in the third quarter as Chicago charged back into this game. She did it from deep as her 4-4 from three point range had New York off balance
As the Sky try to maintain their standing in the league following the departure of so many key players over the winter, Copper will have a lot on her shoulders if she wants to get the club back into the postseason.
Light it up, speed it up
When things were working well for the Liberty, it was when they pushed the pace in transition. They were able to complete defensive possessions by keeping the Sky off the boards and pushed, pushed, pushed
Fastbreak offense is great for team success and great to watch!
Vandersloot mentioned that the team had a ton of success out in transition, and it’s something we’ll see more of going forward. Brondello has mentioned she wants the team to push the pace more often, and we saw what happens when they execute that vision. Tuesday will be a big day for the team as they’ll be able to have a full practice with Marine Johannes (Sandy mentioned she’s only had half of a practice since returning from France). Finding the perfect rhythm takes time, and with the talent on the team and their desire to keep getting better, better days are ahead.
On Friday night, Brondello said something interesting. Sabrina Ionescu only played 25 minutes and wasn't part of the closing five down the stretch. She was asked about it and said Ionescu wasn't feeling 100 percent, but didn't go into too much detail. On Sunday, she had a regular workload as she played 32 minutes. Although she only went 2-of-9 from the field, there were some encouraging signs. When she attacked the basket, she had some success finishing in traffic
Brondello has talked a lot about getting two feet in the paint and finishing at the basket. When the Liberty were at their best, they got to the basket and finished over the Sky. Ionescu is at her best when she’s attacking downhill and putting pressure on the defense that way. Prior to her mini slump, she had been absolutely electric from three point range. The Liberty are still fine tuning things on both sides of the ball, and how Ionescu continues to maintain her effectiveness will be something to watch.
In postgame, she was asked about her health and said:
I transcribed the full exchange here that took place in the postgame scrum. Just so there's no uncertainty. pic.twitter.com/QqnmMkyN4G— Jackie Powell (she/her) (@ClassicJpow) June 4, 2023
With a few days off before the next game, Ionescu will get some more time to heal up, get treatment, and continue pushing forward. The activity level remained high for her and it’s something she’ll continue to focus on as the season rolls on.
Jonquel Jones has been working her way back to full strength following a foot fracture she suffered in last year’s Finals. In pregame, she mentioned that her foot feels good and it’s more about doing things at a high level. She played 20 minutes on Sunday and over the past week, we’ve started to see her assert her will in the paint more often
Jones is a gamechanger on both sides of the basketball, and the more she finds her rhythm and the further away she is from injury, the better her game will be.
The W wears Orange
Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the United States. It feels like any time you turn on the news, there’s another story about gun violence of some sort. Although there haven’t been many legislative victories yet, advocates and various community members have continued to press the issue as they fight to create a safer world for all of us.
Jocelyn Willoughby did a PSA about the issue and the Liberty posted it on their social media channels:
Brondello was asked about the first time she realized gun violence in America was a serious issue and the WNBA’s intentionality in speaking about this issue every year:
“Yeah, I can’t remember when [the first time she realized gun violence was a serious issue in the USA]. I’ve lived in this country for so long but [there have been] so many unnecessary deaths because people can use guns. Being, obviously, from another country I don’t get that because it’s not in our country even though we’ve had obviously some instances. But in America, it’s like a daily thing and it really needs to stop. And I don’t know all the rules and the political things, but I think it’s just common sense, isn’t it? You know, they take away rights for other things and then that’s not one of their rights [being taken away]. Too many people have access to guns and too many innocent people are dying... Hopefully change can happen and hopefully by us using our voices and wearing the orange, we can have more discussions.”
JJ spoke about it as well:
“I think it’s the same thing like Sandy said. I’ve been here for the majority of my life now. Just, you know, turning on the news and seeing cases where school shootings and innocent children are having their lives being taken away before it’s even started. I think it’s been so many cases now that I can’t really remember the first time [she realized gun violence was a problem in the United States] like Sandy said either. But it’s the same thing in the Bahamas. The access to guns isn’t as available [as compared to the United States]. It’s not a law or rule that people can have guns and I think it’s also the type of guns, too. People being able to have access to guns that can fire hundreds of shots in a couple of minutes is unprecedented. So I think we have to start with a little bit of regulation.
And I say we because I do consider myself to be a part of this country and I appreciate being in this country. It has done a lot for me. And so, you just have to find ways to regulate it so that it can be safer for everybody. Kids going to school don’t have to feel afraid or do gun drills and have teachers having guns locked away in your drawers in case something happens. Like, it’s just crazy to me.”
Throughout its existence, the WNBA has been on the forefront of advocacy in sports. The players have consistently stood for what is right and pushed for legislators to do better by the communities they serve. As the issue of gun violence persists, the league will continue to use their voices to push for change. It’s something we should all aspire to.
Joe Tsai gets an earful
Joe Tsai was at the game and when he left his seat, a Nets fan on hand gave him some advice...
The Sunday afternoon game attracted 7,225 fans to Barclays Center, about 700 short of a sellout of the lower bowl. In three home games, the Liberty are averaging 7,663, which is about, 2,300 more than they averaged last season when they finished seventh in the 12-team league.
The Liberty have a few days off before taking on the Minnesota Lynx at the Clays. Tip off at 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
- Box Score: Chicago Sky 86, New York Liberty 82 - WNBA
- Game Highlights: Chicago Sky 86, New York Liberty 82 (Video) - WNBA
- Copper, Williams help Chicago rally from 19-down to beat New York 86-82 - Doug Feinberg - AP
- Liberty’s 19-point collapse in loss to Sky highlights continued growing pains for expected superteam - Jack Maloney - CBS Sports
- Recap: Incredible stretches in third and fourth allow for 19-point Sky comeback, revenge on Liberty - Zachary Ward - Swish Appeal
- Sky’s Kahleah Copper, Liberty’s Betnijah Laney took similar paths to WNBA success - Annie Constabile - Chicago Sun-Times