Three takeaways: New York pushes pace against Mystics

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: Sugar Rodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: Sugar Rodgers /

NEW YORK – After a difficult defeat to the Chicago Sky on Friday, the New York Liberty made key changes to edge the Washington Mystics 85-55. Here are three takeaways from the Liberty’s ninth win of the season.

Sharing is caring

On Friday, the New York Liberty registered nine bench points in 40 minutes.  With Sugar Rodgers coming off the bench today against Washington, New York tallied a whopping 41 bench points and nine from Rodgers in the first half alone. Only Bria Hartley (15 points) scored more in the game for New York. It was evident New York bought into playing a team game tonight.

Not only did head coach Bill Laimbeer find minutes for all his players, but every player scored. “Positive reinforcement is a great thing; it worked,”  joked Laimbeer after the game.  He added that having Rodgers come off the bench opened up tasks for others, “you get a better role definition that way for some of your players. Like, Nayo [Raincock-Ekunwe] … came in at the power forward and did a fine job. I thought Kiah Stokes played very well too. [She] rebounded very well.”

More even contribution worked exceptionally well on a day Tina Charles was held to six points and six rebounds.  The Liberty proved they can win games through increased bench productivity. Imagine what will happen on a night where the bench drops 40+ points in addition to Charles’ average of 20 points per game. This is a team that can be outright dangerous down the stretch.

Charles was the first to celebrate the shared responsibility on offense. “There’s are some nights I might not be there on the stats sheet offensively,”  she said after the game. “Everyone in this locker room got into the WNBA for a reason … I’m happy to see everyone elevating their game.”

Pushing the pace

There is no shortage of talent at the guard position for the Liberty. Yet, before today, there was ambiguity as to who the starting guard would (or should) be.  Bria Hartley got the call against the Mystics.

Hartley’s ability to push the tempo that got her the start. She was tasked with increasing the pace of the game against her former team, “Brittany Body told me before the game, ‘push the tempo and play defense.’ That’s what I tried to focus on and let the rest of the game come to me.”  For her part offensively, she added 15 points.

The best is yet to come

Finally, the convincing win over Washington indicated the Liberty have another gear.  One cannot overlook the absence of Elena Delle Donne and Tayler Hill for the Mystics. Their season averages of 13.3 and 18.7 points per game, respectively, would have erased tonight’s 30 point deficit.  With the pair healthy, the Mystics disposed of New York 67-54 in the first meeting of the season on June 29. Of course, these hypotheticals live in the numbers alone.

For Laimbeer the result is what matters, “This was an important win for us. I know they were shorthanded, but a win is a win … we’re not going away, and hopefully, we’ll play [the next game] as well as we did today.”  Charles added, “I don’t feel good about where we are right now, but I am confident in the turnaround we can have.”

The Liberty will host the red-hot Connecticut Sun before the All-Star break.  New York has dropped two games to Connecticut by double digits.  Although this was a big win for the Liberty, gaining a win over the Sun at home will go a long way in proving New York can be a contender this year.