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Liberty rally from 18 down to beat Storm behind Sabrina Ionescu; off to best start in team history

The Liberty went from record-setting efficiency to mediocrity in two games, but in the end, they won both

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Following the New York Liberty’s 101-point, record-setting victory over the Indiana Fever on July 23rd, they continued their four-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Seattle Storm. New York was looking to complete a season-sweep against the Storm after defeating the WNBA’s worst team, who entered Tuesday at 4-18, in their first three matchups.

However, despite the disparity in records, two of the Liberty's first three contests against Breanna Stewart’s former team went down to the wire, far from the blowout victories that may have been expected after a cursory glance at the schedule.

Tuesday’s coastal contest was more of the same; it was clear early on that the Liberty would not be able to replicate the same fiery offensive performance they had against the Fever. The sea foam scored 35 points in the first half two days after scoring a record 44 points in the first quarter. The offense did not have nearly the same flow or shot-making this time out — the hosts started the game just 5-23 from deep, 21.7% and just 31.8% from the floor overall in the first half. Each starter had at least one turnover en route to ten total over the first twenty minutes, with Sandy Brondello’s frustration growing after each giveaway.

On the other side, the Storm were led by who else than 2023 All-Star Jewell Loyd, who put up 22 points in the first half, including five triples:

Loyd, who doesn’t need any help to go off, certainly got some from a Liberty squad who allowed a couple of easy transition buckets and open looks off defensive miscommunications, in addition to her usual ridiculous shot-making.

However, the slow start from the home team didn’t sink them right away; the game was tied at 30 apiece midway through the second quarter, at which point the Storm closed the half on a 15-5 run to take a 45-35 lead at the break.

New York’s offense didn’t exactly explode in the second half either; their defense, however, tightened up, allowing the Liberty to consistently chip away at the lead over the game’s final 20 minutes. The won a less-than-riveting third quarter by a score of 19-15, cutting the lead from 18 to a manageable six points entering the final frame.

Their offense in the third could best be described as resourceful — Jonquel Jones tallied up a few of her season-high 17 boards on the offensive end, scoring on putbacks:

Betnijah Laney continued her recent stretch of understated excellence as well; a 3-4 first half ultimately became an 8-11 shooting performance. Laney also chipped in three assists and three steals next to just one turnover — while far from the focal point of the offense, she’s rarely made a mistake since the All-Star Break, getting in where she fits in and doing just about whatever Sandy Brondello asks of her:

Brondello asked her to take on the Loyd assignment, and she more than held her own. In the first half, Loyd went 8-13 from the field as she burned the Liberty. After intermission, she couldn’t make anything happen as she went 1-10 from the field (but 7-7 from the free throw line). In postgame, Sandy Brondello attributed their success to crowding her and trapping Loyd a lot more after halftime.

Jonquel Jones expanded on that and added:

“I think Seattle did a good job of making sure that Jewell was coming off of pitches and different actions like that. As a post player, it’s really hard to go because a pitch is like a handoff. If you go too early and the post player keeps you’re kind of screwed,” Jones said.

“So we just kind of made an emphasis and a point that no matter what it was, we were going to put the focus on Jewell. I think that helped a lot. So, hats off to the coaches and the staff for making that adjustment.”

With the defense in perfect harmony, it was time for the offense to make one big fourth quarter push. They did that and then some with a season high 32 fourth quarter points. The duo of Laney and Breanna Stewart led the charge as they scored 14 of the team’s points as they completed the comeback. It took a lot of fight for New York to come all the way back, but this is a team that doesn’t quit

The crowd helped get the home team to the finish line, as Stewart alluded to in postgame

In total, the Liberty came away with an 86-82 victory and a 4-0 season sweep. The win improved their record to 17-5, second best in the WNBA. They’ve officially surpassed their win total from 2022 and also made some franchise history

Slowly but surely you’re starting to see the Liberty put everything together. The team has continued to build their chemistry, have confidence and trust in each other to close out close games, and have a raucous Brooklyn crowd ready to tear the roof off.

Call 12

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

The best players always make an impact. If one part of their game isn’t working, they’re still able to find a way and contribute. That’s where Sabrina Ionescu found herself in this one. Sab only shot 2-14 from the field but she grabbed a season high 12 rebounds and handed out a season high 12 assists. Her court vision opened up a lot for the Liberty and her continued chemistry with Laney allows the Liberty to get a good shot every trip down

We see the Liberty’s chemistry continue to blossom and having Ionescu making all the right plays like that is something they can continue to build on.

Ionescu collected her fourth career triple double with a 12/12/12 line. Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun is the only player with more triple doubles in league history. The 25-year-old grabbed a career high six offensive rebounds on Tuesday, and hard work like that does not go unacknowledged among players and fans alike

When the number one pick is doing the dirty work, it

Player of the Week

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Slow and steady wins the race. It’s been a bit of a rocky season for Jonquel Jones as she adjusts to being on a new team and spent the early part of the year recovering from a foot fracture. She was absolutely dominant in wins against the Washington Mystics and Indiana Fever last week. As a result, she was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

JJ started off slowly, but turned up in the second half as she went 4-6 from the field and grabbed eight of her season high 17 rebounds. On the night, Jones finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds, her third straight double double.

NY won the rebound battle 47-35 and held the Storm to just four second chance points. In postgame, Jones said that she’s feeling great going up and down the court, feels great physically and is making sure that she brings the energy on the boards every night so the team can be successful. And as the Player of the Week, it’s only right that she hit what turned out to be the game winner

The Basketball Gods definitely rewarded her on that one!

Clara Wu Tsai talks about her Liberty investment

At a CNBC event earlier Tuesday, Clara Wu Tsai spoke about how the investment she and husband Joe made in the Liberty four years ago is working out ... and why they decided to get into women’s sports in the first place.

“The NBA is a prime asset, but with emerging leagues there is potential for exponential growth,” Wu Tsai said at Game Plan, an event sponsored by CNBC and Boardroom, Kevin Durant and Rick Kleiman’s sports business company.

The Liberty, she said, fit her and Joe’s criteria for sports investment:

  • The league has to have the world’s best players;
  • There has to be the possibility to attract a passionate and loyal fan base;
  • Owners have to be able to see how the team becomes commercially successfully.

The WNBA club, she added, has an advantage the Nets do not have, a lack of local competition.

“In the case of the WNBA, we saw an advantage we did not have with Nets, two NBA teams in New York City, but only one professional women’s team,” she said. “So we saw this great business opportunity to showcase the best women’s basketball players in the largest media market in the world.”

Success, she said, could have big payout.

“Look at almost all the economics, from revenue to player salaries. It is one-one-hundredth of the NBA. So if the WNBA just grows to 10 percent, it’s a 10x investment.”

The Tsais bought the Liberty in early 2019 from James Dolan’s MSG, reportedly for the assumption of team debt and an agreement to share any profits the team earns. Little or no cash changed hands. They’ve moved the team from the 90-year-old Westchester County Center to Brooklyn and invested heavily in personnel since.

It’s starting to pay off. Attendance for Liberty home games this year, 7,557 on average, is up 42.6% over last season and 219.9% since their last season in Westchester. Tuesday’s attendance was 6,118.

Next up

Phoenix Mercury v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The homestand continues with a matchup against the resurgent Atlanta Dream on Thursday night. Tip after 7:00 p.m. at the 'clays.