New York’s guard rotation remains unpredictable
In Major League Baseball, some teams have a closing committee rather than a closer for the ninth inning. Think of it this way, the Liberty have two platoons in their backcourt: the point guards (Tanisha Wright, Brittany Boyd, Bria Hartley) and the wings (Asia Durr, Marine Johannès and Rebecca Allen). There isn’t a clear point guard on this roster, and that could also be a reason for the communication issues.
Figuring out how to use and rotate New York’s guards has been a challenge for Smith. Depth is not a blessing and a curse per se, but in this case, that’s the reality. There’s a clear hint at a two-pronged system, but it hasn’t been implemented across both committees.
“I think Tanisha’s probably the best PG that we have,” Smith said when asked about who is the one is on this team. “Obviously, skill-wise, Boyd puts a lot of pressure on the defense when it comes to penetrating and pace. But I think Tanisha kind of both defensively and offensively kind of hands our team and runs our team.”
Smith added that Johannès and Asia Durr must be looking to the rim. Against Connecticut for the second time, the head coach thought MJ could be more aggressive against defensive schemes. “There are times when she can shoot it and take it to the hole and not look to pass. I think her defense is solid,” Smith said on Johannès. “She still gotta stay tight with the basketball, but she can look for her shot more instead of always being a facilitator…That’s partly her, she’s got great court vision and willing passer, but we also need her to stay aggressive.”
Does this mean MJ could become a potential candidate for New York’s Next Top Point Guard? I don’t know what Tyra Banks would say, but I know Smith believes if anyone, it could be Long Island native Hartley instead. “It really was probably [Hartley’s] first game where she’s played the one,” Smith said. “But there’s a little bit of combo guards to a point. Well, nobody’s totally taken the reigns and grabbed it and ran with it.”
Rebecca Allen also provides solid minutes —an observation dating back to the first day of the season. And when Nurse struggles, Allen’s ability to get on a streak from beyond the arc, or use her long arms to do almost anything, doesn’t go unnoticed. While she had a couple of frustrating turnovers due to miscommunication early on, she helped New York mount a comeback in the fourth quarter against Sun.
With Allen, Durr, Zahui B., Boyd and Charles on the floor with a little over eight minutes left in the fourth, the Liberty cut an almost 20 point lead to a deficit of 11. This forced Connecticut Head Coach Curt Smith to insert Courtney Williams back into the rotation with under six to play. In the fourth, Allen brought down her third board of the game, scored two layups from her pal Zahui B., and blocked a shot from Bria Holmes’ hot hand. (She shot 60 percent from three.)
During this fourth-quarter run, the Westchester County Center got into it. The crowd fed off the energy Tina Charles had since tip-off. The “LET’S GO LIBERTY” chants were what you call #libertyloud. But following the chants, another three-ball from Holmes was that sealed the deal on this one, putting the late-game run to rest.