Photo credit: Vinnie Lucia

Tale of Two Halves for the New York Liberty in Game 1

Sunday afternoon, the New York Liberty fell to the Las Vegas Aces in game one of the WNBA Finals, 99-82. Although the Aces managed to pull away in the second half, this game was much closer than what the scoreboard says. In the first half, the Liberty built some momentum and eventually a slight lead. Throughout the game, the defensive pressure and adjustments of the Aces helped shift the pendulum. The Liberty appeared to be very out of sync and out of position quite often. Also, in the second half, the Liberty lost a ton of their one-on-one matchups allowing the confidence of the Aces to grow further as the game progressed. 

"Their movement got us out of position a little bit," New York coach Sandy Brondello said. "One-on-one defense was critical for us, and they got the upper hand in this game. We know we can defend better."

This was a game of adjustments and adaptations for both teams, however the Aces executed much more efficiently and effectively. Naturally, this gave them a slight advantage in the second half to ultimately runaway with the game. One of the key moments in the game was when Las Vegas extended their third-quarter run into the fourth quarter, totaling a 20-8 run through the 7:20 mark of the quarter. The Aces later went on Las Vegas went on a 14-5 run from the 6:47 mark of the fourth to the 3:22 mark of the quarter to put the game away.

"Their defense was as good as I've ever seen it," Brondello said. "But we've got to play more poised."

Things to Focus on Heading Into Game 2 for the Liberty

The Aces relied on their isolation plays on the wing with their immensely talented guards, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. Naturally, the Aces attempted to feed former MVP Aja Wilson a ton, however the emphasis was to contain her around the rim. This gave many opportunities for their guards to make plays and forced the Liberty to make plays they couldn’t make. 

“You see the growth from our guards: We're patient," veteran point guard Chelsea Gray said. "If we get into the paint and nothing is there, we kick it back out and go to the second action. We've taken things a level up." 

"We know when to push each other, when to relax a little. There's a trust factor," continued Gray, who has played the past three seasons with Young and Plum. "If we're yelling, 'You gotta do this!' it's coming from a good place of just wanting to win. There's just a kind of chemistry there with us."

Although the Liberty managed to have two players record more than 15 points (Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones,) the key in the game was three-point shooting and points off the bench. The keys heading into this game were dominating the rebounds and having ample contributions off the bench for the Liberty.

In this game, Marine Johannes, who’s been a key player all season, had a huge first half, but appeared to cool down in the second half. They will be forced to make tough threes and stretch the floor for the Aces to respect their offense. Therefore, this will naturally open up driving lanes and opportunities around the rim for Jones and Stewart to capitalize off. 

Last game, the Liberty shot 31% from the three, although they’ve shot around 37% for the season. This will be imperative moving forward in order to find success within their offense. The Liberty also allowed the Aces to actively slow the game down and not allow them out in transition. Historically, the Liberty is one of the best transitional or fast-break teams in the history of the WNBA and must utilize this as a weapon moving forward.

Where Can You Find the New York Liberty Next Matchup?

The next game will be held at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Wednesday night. The Liberty remains on the road for a must-win in game two. Throughout this season, the Liberty have never lost back-to-back games. Therefore, some expect the Liberty to tie up the series and begin preparing to face them in two games on their home court in the Barclay Center.

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