clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Liberty weather the Storm and win their third straight

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

In every experience, there's something you can learn from it. Whether it's a good or bad experience, you can always pick up a bit of wisdom from it and carry it with you to your next destination. You learn from it, apply the valuable lesson you got from it, and hope it serves you well the next time you face a challenge. When you do that, you can survive almost anything.

On Saturday afternoon, only one WNBA game was on the docket. The Seattle Storm were in town hoping to get one on the board after a bad loss to the Connecticut Sun. The New York Liberty are coming off a close win against the Phoenix Mercury. It went down to the wire, but the Liberty did just enough to walk away with an 80-76 victory. The W was their third in a row.

The Liberty offense was stuck in the mud for most of the first half as they shot 36/29/80. In the second half, they were able to move the ball around a lot more and got themselves clean looks as a result

The Liberty have led the WNBA in assists this season, and their passing has been a sight to behold. The team is at their best when they drive-and-kick and attack the paint. Once you get to the rim, defenses have to help contest those restricted area shots. With that extra attention, you can make something shake on the perimeter

They handed out 23 assists on 27 made field goals. When it looked like they were going to cruise towards the finish line, an old friend made her presence felt in a major way. This was Sami Whitcomb’s return to New York after two seasons with the team, and she struck late in this one. With the Liberty up by ten, she went on a personal 8-0 run to bring the Storm within one possession of tying the game up.

Fortunately for the Liberty, they were able to lock in down the stretch and won a crucial challenge. All of that combined for a nice closing to the first half of the home schedule.

Leading the way for the Libs was Breanna Stewart. Stewie did it to her former team once again as her 25 points, eight rebounds, and three assists paced the New York attack. Earlier in the day, she and A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces selected their rosters for next Saturday’s All Star Game.

The rosters are fun, and the game next weekend should be fantastic.

Golden challenge

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Jewell Loyd is the leading scorer in the WNBA. She’s been scoring from every angle imaginable and over any defender you put in front of her. In today’s game, the Liberty threw Betnijah Laney, Kayla Thornton, Courtney Vandersloot, Breanna Stewart and even Sabrina Ionescu on Loyd. The strategy worked beautifully as they held Loyd to a season low 14 points on a season low 3-17 from the field. Sandy Brondello has always mentioned that great scorers are gonna get theirs, it’s up to you as a defender to make it as hard as possible. Mission accomplished

Sandy Brondello spoke about the collective defensive effort and said:

When you contest everything, you give yourself a fighting chance.

There was a scary moment in the fourth quarter when Loyd collapsed onto the floor holding her left foot. She was able to walk off the court under her own power and was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain. Loyd returned to the bench for the rest of the game and here’s hoping she’s back to full strength as soon as possible.

Shining light

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a struggle for the Liberty bench in recent games. With Stefanie Dolson out with injury and Han Xu nursing a foot injury, the bench is not where everyone wants it to be. Marine Johannes has been in a slump and Nyara Sabally has been experiencing some rookie growing pains.

Sabally’s hustle and effort helped give the team a spark off the bench.

“It makes me really happy. I obviously don’t wanna get emotional talking about her, but I know what she’s gone through to get to this point in her career. And she’s bet on herself. She’s gone through so many injuries at such a young age and she could’ve given up. She stayed true to herself. She put in the work. She trusted in her abilities, and obviously she’s still a rookie in this league. She’s growing every single day, and we all don’t treat her like a rookie, and I think that’s a testament to the work that she’s put in, how smart she is, her abilities, her strengths. And we really need her to come off the bench and give us that spark. Her ability as a 6’4 center to be able to rebound, bring the ball up the floor, and make reads... A lot of the things that she has are God given talents, and so I’m proud of her. We always hold her to a really high standard and she’s gonna continue to get better for us every game. I’m definitely proud of her and I know we all are.”

Jonquel Jones spoke about her rookie and shared a valuable lesson she learned from when she was a rookie:

The best work environments are when everyone looks for each other and lifts each other up as they climb. Being selfless and team oriented goes a long way and for a young player coming into a hyper competitive league and on a team with big expectations, having everyone look out for you goes a long way.

Star time

Seattle Storm v New York Liberty Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images

It’s been an awesome week for Sabrina Ionescu. On Friday, she was announced as being one of the cover athletes for the upcoming edition of NBA2K. And on Saturday, she put together another All Star outing. On the night, she scored 20 points, handed out eight assists, and grabbed four rebounds in 32 minutes. Sab hit six three pointers and made the game sealing free throws in the final seconds. In a great story over at the W’s website, our pal Mark Schindler made this great observation about Ionescu:

“What I find most striking about Sabrina as a shooter is her timing. Jab steps, hesis, and a variety of head/ball/body fakes are her setups to open up and attack pockets on screening actions.

She’s too good a passer and scorer to let downhill at ease, but she’s also way too good a shooter to give space to. This leads to a cat-and-mouse game of feigning and subtle change of direction and pace to toy with the space at her disposal. Few if any recognize the space to shoot; call it self-awareness of spacing.”

You could see that at play here:

It’s helped Ionescu shoot a career best 43.9% from downtown. She’s already in Vegas for All Star, maybe the 3-point contest is in the cards for her as well?

A lot of attention has been placed on her defense. Today, she held her own on that end and in postgame, I asked her how her defensive play has evolved over time:

“Just continuing to trust my defense. Knowing the personnel a lot better has helped as well, now being my third season playing. I’m starting to know players’ tendencies a lot more and able to watch film and figure out ways that I can continue to use my length as a guard and force them into difficult shots. But I really rely on my teammates behind me, knowing that I can get up and force a downhill drive because I know we have a trap coming, and I know players are behind me, with communication has helped a lot. Obviously I know there’s a long way to go, but every single game I’m coming in with the mentality of wanting to be better on both sides of the ball and that’s a step in the right direction.”

We’ve talked a lot about the Liberty building good chemistry, and you can see how Ionescu and her teammates are able to combine for a successful play

That’s what you want to see, and as Ionescu continues to work hard on defense, the results will show.

Next up

Indiana Fever v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty close out the first half of the season on the road against the Indiana Fever on Wednesday. It’s a camp day game so the party gets started at high noon.