Three Takeaways: New York Liberty put it together against Los Angeles

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 13: Shavonte Zellous
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 13: Shavonte Zellous /

The New York Liberty defended home court against the reigning WNBA Champions Sunday, defeating the Sparks 83-69.  The win gives New York a 2-1 season series advantage over Los Angeles in the final regular season meeting between the two sides. Here are three takeaways from today’s only game.

Offensive motion

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New York greatly improved offensively from their last home game against Indiana on Tuesday. The Liberty rotated the ball often and efficiently opening up the floor and shooting at a 43.7% clip from the floor. Additionally, they shot 91.7% (11-12) from the free throw line. “When we move the ball we’re at our best,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer after the win. “Whether we’re running it and moving the ball or in the half court and moving the ball, that’s when we’re successful.” 

Tina Charles again tallied the most Liberty points, while securing seven rebounds and dishing three assists. Solid ball movement helped Epiphany Price reach her first double-digit scoring game. She notched 18 points, just one bucket shy of her season-high 19 points at Minnesota on July 25. Shavonte Zellous added 19 points and six rebounds to New York’s offense.

Out of sync

On the other side of the coin, Los Angeles seemed out of sync after a strong start.The Sparks posted a 19-12 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game. Candace Parker led all scorers with 10 points and 3 rebounds in the first quarter. She combined with Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray for 24 of the Sparks 27 first quarter points. The Liberty capitalized by turning an 11 point first quarter deficit into a nine-point first half lead. “Obviously, we got off to a good start,” shared Sparks head coach Brian Agler after the game.

The difference in the second quarter was a defection from LA’s strengths, “When we get away from that, we don’t play as well, and that’s what happened tonight.”  Ogwumike added, “right now we need to regain our strength and regain our identity. We’re really trying our best to re-evaluate that part of us.” 

Additionally, New York buckled down on their signature defensive effort.  The Liberty collected 25 defensive boards and made five steals.  Laimbeer felt the latter statistic, mixed with lots of disruption in the paint was a good sign, “We got our hand on a lot of balls which means that we were very engaged and very active.”  The high energy of New York appeared to wear Los Angeles down. 

This is the team Laimbeer wants to see down the stretch. New York faces Connecticut on the road before returning home to face the Minnesota Lynx.  “I think we’re passing some of the tests,” said Laimbeer, “we know what’s in front of us and we’re pretty focused right now.” 

New York remains a leader off the court

Despite the laser focus of both teams leading into the home stretch of the regular season, the players have not lost sight of things bigger than themselves. Prior to tipoff, the Liberty held a moment of silence to remember 32-year old Heather Heyer, and Virginia State Patrol Troopers Berke Bates and Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, who died tragically as a result of the violent events that transpired this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

New York is the first team to respond to the fatal car crash that took place at approximately 1:30 pm ET Saturday, August 12. Further, this Sunday, the Liberty host the first-ever Unity Game. “Our Unity Game is borne out of a desire to have continued dialogue, work towards developing solutions to extremely complex issues, and strive to bring our communities closer together,” said Liberty President Isaiah Thomas in an August 7 press release.

The organization and Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) will host a panel with the goal of creating positive change in the community.  “It’s very special. I think it definitely represented what we’re all about,” said Ogwumike, president of the WNBA Players Association. “I was really grateful that we were able to have a moment of silence to recognize the victims … that’s kind of what’s so great about us playing in this league.”