New York Liberty
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Liberty get taste of Humble Pie against Connecticut

It comes to a point in everyone’s life where we all need a bit of humbling and Sunday afternoon may have been that point for the New York Liberty. On Sunday afternoon, the Liberty took on the Connecticut Sun in the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs, whom they’ve defeated four times in the regular season prior. Undeniably, the Suns came to play and outworked the Liberty in key moments to help determine the outcome of this game as Connecticut defeated New York, 78-63, to take a 1-0 series lead. Fortunately for the Liberty, this season, they’ve yet to lose two games in a row. Meaning, that they tend to correct, learn quickly, and ultimately bounce back in a fairly decent time. 

“This has been happening in the last few games, I think it’s mindset, and when the frustration sets in we’re not executing,” Brondello states. “We know we’re better than that, and now our backs are against the wall so we have to come and respond in the right way.”

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello admits they didn’t play their best basketball, in fact, she confirms it was their worst. That said, the Liberty must do some soul-searching as they were out-rebounded, allowing the Suns ample more opportunities to score. Although the defense managed to hold what many deem a possible MVP finalist Alyssa Thomas to eight points, they still allowed Suns forward DeWanna Bonner to finish with a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. The Liberty also struggled to contain the Sun sharpshooter Rebecca Allen allowing her to make four of her six threes. 

“I think they were aggressive and blowing things up for us, but I don’t think we handled it well,” Liberty superstar Breanna Stewart states. “We didn’t remain poised or composed, we had the ability to get to the second and third side and we just didn’t do that today.”

“It’s a little frustrating to drop one at home, but we’ll bounce back and watch the film tomorrow and be ready for Tuesday,” Stewart continues. 

Positives to Build on for the New York Liberty

Understanding there are tons to look at and rectify moving forward, there were some positives to build off for the Liberty. Early in the game, the offense found the most success with former MVP Jonquel Jones and superstar guard Sabrina Ionescu conducting high pick and rolls which forced the Suns to play differently. Oftentimes, this opens the floor and allows their shooters to have catch-and-shoot opportunities or favorable matchups for Jones. At times, it appeared the offense became stagnant and began forcing bad shots and making irrational decisions. 

“I think just sloppiness, there’s no excuse for it,” Liberty veteran guard Courtney Vandersloot mentions. “It’s not like we didn’t expect it to happen, but we didn’t execute well and held onto the ball too long.”

Defensively, the Liberty definitely struggled, however there were bright moments throughout the game. Stewart was very handsy and accumulated a few steals and easy fast-break points. Kayla Thornton, while only having six points, was plus 10 for the entirety of the game. Her defensive pressure continued to make it hard on the Suns and helped cause some costly turnovers, however they just weren’t consistent enough the whole game.

When asked if was there anything to build off moving forward from the tough loss, Brondello responded:

“Not really, second and fourth quarters were the only positives,” Brondello continues. “Holding them to 12 and 13 points in those quarters, but first and third we have to learn a lot from those quarters.” 

Regrouping and Reframing

Both of these opposing teams respect one another and understand this series will be a very long drawn-out battle. That said, the Sun are preparing for the Liberty to answer with a vengeance and history shows that they will. On Tuesday, New York will take on the Sun at home and attempt to tie the series up before heading out to Connecticut for Game 3.

“The biggest thing is being disruptive, New York is so good on the offensive end and they have so many actions they run, so we have to force them out of their rhythm and mess up their timing and I felt we did a good job of that today,” Sun head coach and coach of the year Stephanie White states.

“That’s what it’s going to take, it’s a long series and this is just one game,” White continues. “We’re certainly going to enjoy this for another couple of hours but then we got to turn the page. We have to be ready because we know they’re going to respond.”

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