As the New York Liberty (2-1) continues to evolve and progress, the Barclays Center's atmosphere also continues to grow. Although this anticipated matchup between the Liberty and Connecticut Sun (3-1) didn’t sell out, it nearly reached capacity and had just as much effect on the opposing team as the previous game. Heading into this game, the Sun matched up well against the Liberty’s size and guard play, however their lack of consistent scoring cost them in the end, 81-65.
At the start of the game, the pressure and multiple looks the Sun's defense applied on the Liberty made it very hard to get into the rhythm. The Liberty trailed the Sun throughout the first half, but they found certain packages and lineups that caused the Sun a lot of trouble and implemented these adjustments in the second half. Initially, when the Liberty couldn’t find any rhythm, they relied on former MVP Jonquel Jones to control the boards and play aggressively in the paint.
While she played a major part in keeping the Liberty in the game the facilitating and big-time shot-making of veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to stop the Sun from going on several runs and going into the locker room up 38-32.
“In the first half, we weren’t being aggressive and we became a little more aggressive in the second half,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello stated in the post-game press conference. “We’re a better team than how we're playing, it’s just a mindset. Playing with them and their physicality took us out of what we wanted to do.”
“The beauty of an experienced and veteran team is that they can make adjustments on the fly,” Brondello continued.
New York Liberty Defense Improves Greatly After Halftime
After halftime, the Liberty only allowed 27 points for the remainder of the game, while they poured in 49 points in the second half to give them a 81-65 victory. Due to the intensity and physicality of both defenses, Jones fouled out with six minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately, she was struggling with foul trouble which made veteran center Stefanie Dolson and newly acquired forward Nyara Sabally step up. The two didn’t disappoint and played a vital role in the comeback for the Liberty.
“She’s pretty impressive[Sabally], look you see the potential in training camp,” Brondello explains. “Not only is she explosive, but she’s poised too. I think she gave us really key minutes toward the end of the game. … I’m excited about how we can keep developing her.”
The Liberty’s depth allows their star players to not necessarily have the greatest scoring nights, yet still be effective and find ways to win. Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu and forward Breanna Stewart didn’t necessarily get it going until the second half. Despite Stewart not putting on a scoring clinic, she did find ways to make history for the Liberty.
In the first three games, Stewart set a franchise record for the most points scored by anyone in the first three games (75). The Liberty were forced to find ways to score elsewhere and be effective. They managed to do so and it only speaks to this team's versatility and capability to play with the best of the best.
“I think that shows growth for us as a team being able to make adjustments at half, we weren’t playing to the best of our ability,” Vandersloot emphasized. “Our inability to score felt familiar to game one, however the difference was we came out and implied the adjustments. Holding them [Suns] to 13 points in the third and 14 points in the fourth, that's tough.”
There’s no secret, this team is still looking to build chemistry while also finding their roles on this developing team. The team has made strides and looks to continue to build upon their early success.
What’s Next for the Liberty?
The following game against the Seattle Storm (0-2) will take place on the road and will be an emotional game for Stewart as she returns back to her original team. However, the following week, the Liberty take on the Chicago Sky (3-1) which is the former home of Vandersloot.
“Definitely a bittersweet feeling, but wanting to go there and just be appreciative of everything I had,” Stewart reminisces about her past. “Those moments and those relationships, but as people change positions and job positions, you never forget where you came from.”
“I’ll see how they handle it and then handle it that way,” Vandersloot jokingly explains.
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