After a brief delay, we're back. On Wednesday night, the New York Liberty were all set to host the Minnesota Lynx at the Barclays Center. However, the air in NYC is historically bad and unsafe due to wildfires in Canada. As a result, the decision was made to postpone the game and reschedule it to a later date.
The opponent tonight has been off for a while. The Atlanta Dream last played last Friday when they almost pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Las Vegas Aces. They were down by as much 19 points and almost won, but ultimately fell short.
Where to follow the game
Ion on TV. WNBA League Pass if you can’t get Ion. Tip after 7:30 PM.
Unlike the skies in the Northeast, all clear for the Liberty.
Aari Mcdonald is out for at least the next three to four weeks due to a torn labrum in her shoulder. Danielle Robinson had a knee procedure done and will be out. Iliana Rupert is with the French team in Eurobasket and is out.
With all the injuries in the point guard room, Tanisha Wright will have to turn to a rookie. Haley Jones was drafted sixth overall out of Stanford who had been coming off the bench for the Dream. With McDonald and Robinson out, more will be asked of her. However, she’s ready for the moment and Wright has spoken about the growth of her rookie:
“Haley’s just still trying to get comfortable, understanding the flow of this league in this game. It’s hard for any rookie. I don’t care who you are, you’re now playing against, bigger, stronger, faster. The pace is different … But she’s definitely grown since the first day we got her in camp.”
Jones will get to go against one of the game’s greatest point guards in Courtney Vandersloot. After Sunday’s loss, Sloot mentioned that the team didn’t do a good enough job of getting Breanna Stewart the ball. It didn’t help that the Liberty got loose with the basketball, as they turned it over nine times after halftime. Even the most talented teams can't succeed if they're sloppy on offense, so the Liberty have to be a lot more determined to get things right.
That’ll start with getting Breanna Stewart the ball more often. Stewart almost pulled the Liberty out of the fire against the Chicago Sky, but it ultimately wasn’t to be. She’s been outstanding for the Liberty and will face a tough matchup against Cheyenne Parker. CP has been marvelous for the Dream and is averaging career highs in points (17.2) and rebounds (7.6). She’s top 20 in both categories and will look to give Stewart trouble.
A lot of folks are high on the Dream, and the presence of Allisha Gray is a big part of that. Gray came over from the Dallas Wings in the off-season and is the perfect do-everything guard that amplifies everyone around her. She’s a good cutter, can finish well at the rim, is a good ball handler, and is a plus defender.
Sabrina Ionescu has gotten a few extra days off to rest her tight hamstring, and we’ll see how she does tonight. Ionescu started getting downhill more often on Sunday, and that’s going to be key for her going forward. She’s still working her way into the offense and finding that rhythm, and more minutes will help her and the team figure things out.
Player to watch: Rhyne Howard
Second acts are often hard to pull off. When you start off really strong, you may come back and try to put even more on your shoulders as you deal with increased expectations. The Dream were everyone’s trendy pick to make noise, and a lot of that was due to Howard. Howard was the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year in 2022 and was 12th in the WNBA in scoring. So far in '23, Howard has lived out on the perimeter more often. Of her 80 field goal attempts so far, only seven have been inside the restricted area. She’s taking a fair share of three pointers and is making a respectable 35.3 percent of them. Once she starts having success in the painted area, the sky will be the limit.
In the two game series to end 2022, Betnijah Laney had the assignment of guarding Howard and did really well against the young star. Laney has taken on the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best scorer this season, and she'll get another star turn tonight. Laney and Kayla Thornton have been a solid defensive dynamic duo for Sandy Brondello’s club, and the Howard assignment will help determine the flow of this contest. For the Liberty, if they can keep their energy up for all 40 minutes, they’ll get back in the winners circle and feel good when they come back to smoky New York City.
From the Vault
New music Friday, and Janelle Monae is back! In honor of her new album, let’s take it all the way back
- New York Liberty Game Notes - New York Liberty
- Atlanta Dream Game Notes - Atlanta Dream
- Dream, Liberty prepare for first of three June meetings - STATS
- Parker leads Atlanta against New York after 25-point showing - AP