Everyone gets knocked down, but how you get back up tells the story. If you stay determined and trust that your hard work will pay off, you’ll always have a chance to make it to where you want to be. And when that trust starts to pay off, there isn’t anything that can slow you down.
The New York Liberty hit the nation’s capital hoping to make up for Wednesday’s loss to the Dallas Wings and their Opening Night defeat in DC. The Washington Mystics didn’t make it easy as they jumped out to an early 10-2 lead. However, Sandy Brondello’s club quickly regained their footing and used a total team effort to come away with a 96-87 victory on Friday night. The win improved the Libs’ record to 15-5 on the WNBA season.
The theme following Wednesday’s game was rebounding. The Wings out-physicaled and out-toughed the Liberty as they decisively won the rebound and paint battle. Jonquel Jones made sure she fixed both areas tonight. In postgame, Jones admitted she sometimes overthinks and is in her own head during games. We often see it when she gets frustrated and has to exit games early with foul trouble. JJ looked like her MVP self all night long as she wore the Mystics out in the painted area.
JJ had an MVP caliber performance as her 27 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks paced the Liberty attack. When Jones is at her best, the Liberty go from great to super. Breanna Stewart spoke about the impact her teammate can have when she’s locked in like this
"JJ playing how we all know she can play adds everything to this team"— New York Liberty Videos (@SNYLiberty) July 22, 2023
Breanna Stewart on what Jonquel Jones can bring to the Liberty when she plays like this: pic.twitter.com/CoudnsTr33
Sandy Brondello spoke about how JJ’s mentality tonight helped open things up for the rest of her teammates:
"It's fun for me to see her, to go out there and dominate and have such an efficient game"— New York Liberty Videos (@SNYLiberty) July 22, 2023
Sandy Brondello talks about Jonquel Jones' performance tonight: pic.twitter.com/5lwzGyf0tf
Without Stefanie Dolson and Han Xu, the Liberty are a bit shorthanded in the size department. If Jones can play at something close to this level every night, she erases those problems and opens up a whole universe of possibilities for the team. Jones is a great rim protector, someone who can switch onto guards on the perimeter, and a great communicator on D as well.
Not to be outdone, Breanna Stewart turned up in the second half. Stewie took a backseat to Jones and Sabrina Ionescu in the first half as they were in complete control of the game. However, once things got tight, she went to work. She went 6-9 from the field (including 3-4 from three point range) in the second half and made crucial buckets down the stretch that stopped a Mystics comeback attempt:
Throughout the season, we’ve seen teams throw haymakers at the Liberty, but New York is able to persist and finish out strong. I asked Stewart about the team’s ability to close out strong, and she said:
“I think it shows that we have experience, that we know what we need to get to, that we’ve been in these positions before, even before coming to this team to have all 5 starters together. But we continue to to kind of fall back on what got us here, being confident in one another, and knowing that runs are gonna happen. And you know, when it’s our opportunity to kind of take the momentum back, we do.”
That toughness will serve the Liberty well now and the deeper we go into the season.
The Liberty are at their best when they’re on the go. Transition offense is the best offense and when you’re able to consistently get advantages after successful defensive stops, you can find openings in the defense that usually aren’t there.
Ionescu was one assist away from another triple double, but 16/10/9 is still pretty darn impressive. Sandy Brondello had high praise for her young star, saying:
Sandy Brondello: "I thought that was one of the best games Sabrina has played for us on both ends of the floor. We put the ball back in her hands a little more. She's like Sloot -- she's got great vision and sees things happen before they happen." (Q: @ClassicJpow)— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) July 22, 2023
Ionescu’s always been a terrific decision maker, and her ability to force the defense way beyond the three point line opens everything up for her teammates on the perimeter and when they’re driving to the basket. The Liberty are always looking to attack the paint, and when you have a generational three point shooter that’s a willing passer on top of it, it makes life easy for everyone. Well, easy for everyone on your team. Everybody else? Not so much!
Even though Ionescu missed the triple double, she and the team made a fun bit of history in DC:
The @nyliberty tonight were the 1st team in WNBA history to have 3 players each put up 15+ PTS, 10+ REB, and 2+ 3PM.@jus242: 27 PTS / 11 REB / 2 3PM@breannastewart: 24 PTS / 10 REB / 3 3PM@sabrina_i20: 16 PTS / 11 REB / 3 3PMhttps://t.co/kKlSN4P2dI— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) July 22, 2023
Having five starters that can each take over a game and make life hell on defenses is such a luxury for the Liberty coaching staff. What makes it even better is they’re all unselfish and all working to make the right play every trip down. As the bench works to find its footing without Dolson, having the starters locked in like this provides them time to regain their confidence and make things happen.
The Liberty come home to start a four game homestand, beginning with the Indiana Fever on Sunday afternoon. Tip after 3:00 p.m. ET at the ‘clays.
- Box Score: New York Liberty 96, Washington Mystics 87 - NBA
- Game Highlights: New York Liberty 96, Washington Mystics 87 (Video) - NBA
- Breanna Stewart among three Liberty players to notch double-double in win over Mystics - AP
- Shorthanded Mystics start fast but can’t hang on in loss to Liberty - Spencer Nusbaum - Washington Post