Allen’s 28 point performance on Tuesday night is no fluke as the Aussie adds an attack to a struggling New York squad
WHITE PLAINS, NY — She hustles, keeps her eyes peeled and feet planted.
She follows with a hop from the knees while her toes remain pointed.
She hoists her body toward the basket and rockets her arms through the air. Catch and shoot.
Another possession: she reaches down low for the basketball, dribbles forward, jukes back, and rocks her long frame into the wing away from Lynx center Temi Fagbenle. Right as the ball slides through the net, she’s postured like a teapot with one arm to the sky and the other on her hip.
She takes everything as it comes, and that’s more than a mantra for Rebecca Allen. And with that attitude, she achieved a franchise record with the most points scored in a quarter.
Before tipoff on Tuesday night at the Westchester County Center, I saw a rare sight. I spotted a fan wearing a Rebecca Allen jersey right in front of me. Credit where credit is due, as that fan had the right idea. Tuesday night was no one else’s night but Allen’s.
The Victoria native had the hottest hand on the court, scoring 28 points on six three balls with a total field goal percentage that hovered a little over 73 percent. When she was asked about her three-point shot and specifically what was working postgame after the Liberty’s 89-73 loss to the Lynx, Allen responded with candor. “I guess I’ve been working on it my whole life,” she said.
According to an interview with CBS Local, Allen began her basketball journey when she was introduced to the game by playing Netball, an English game that was an early derivative of basketball, with her friends as a kid. After growing up in a small town outside of Melbourne, Allen began her professional career at age 16 playing for the WNBL’s Dandenong Rangers, which will be called the Southside Flyers this season after a rebrand. She later played on the Australian Institute of Sport’s WNBL squad and then eventually signed with Dandenong rival, the Melbourne Boomers.
A year before joining the New York Liberty and in her last year with the Boomers, Allen received the Robyn Maher trophy for Defensive Player of the year. Amid her four blocks against Chicago last Wednesday, that’s not a shock.
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With her charming native Australian accent and calming disposition, Allen is a fan favorite. But, she’s also been simultaneously under the radar throughout her four-plus years in the WNBA. Her career has been spritzed with injuries, most notably a right knee cartilage injury during her rookie season with New York, another knee injury while playing in Poland this past winter and most recently her hand fracture from earlier this season.
“With myself within my career, nothing has ever been completely smooth,” Allen said in a conversation with DJ Sixsmith. “I’ve had injuries, I’ve had upsets or disappointments, not making the last Olympics. I haven’t really let any of that affect me and I think that’s a good thing for other athletes to see.”
In the past week and a half, Allen has had her moment or what she calls a “purple patch,” an informal bit of British slang meaning “a run of success.” And according to Allen, an uptick in minutes earlier in games has contributed to her confidence to take those shots on the perimeter.
“We played her at the four a little bit to space the floor you know because Minnesota plays three-quarters hard, and just lays a body on Tina,” head coach Katie Smith said about Allen during her postgame presser on Tuesday. “So at some point, they gotta go help and if they’re leaving shooters, we got to find the open person and she was able to knock shots down. So she was able to space the floor, we have shooters all around and you know, got ourselves a nice little run.”
Tina Charles says Allen is a “great player and a great person”
The Liberty were down 12 with under four minutes left in the first half on Tuesday night. Marine Johannès sent the ball to Tina Charles in the post, drawing in the Lynx defense. With pressure on Charles, the 7X All-Star lobed the ball to the weak side with a wide-open Allen ready to catch and shoot. Teammate Brittany Boyd knew Allen was going to bank her third three-ball of the game. When the Aussie received the ball, Boyd was up from the bench immediately.
Following the Allen three-point swoosh and the Lynx leading only by single digits, Boyd and Reshanda Gray were jumping around like kangaroos. (Yep, I just went there.) Boyd even kneeled and dabbed in Allen’s honor. Emotion wasn’t only present on the bench. After Charles’ pass to Allen, she prepared for a rebound. But she paused and watched the ball go in the hole. Cue the Tina fist pump.
“I think it’s growth,” Charles said postgame when asked about Allen’s career-high performance. “It’s just from the time she got into the league, to where she is now, capitalizing on the opportunity that she has to be on the floor. Just seeing growth over the years, defensively, offensively.”
And speaking of defense, Allen makes each rebound and block count. She had four boards on Tuesday against the Lynx and swatted away four Chicago Sky shots the Wednesday before. With an eye almost always on the ball, the only milli-second she might take off it might be to make sure she’s boxing out her opponent. As time was about to expire in the first half, Allen made sure center Temi Fagbenle was nowhere near achieving possession after she missed her free throw.
“She’s always looking to be aggressive, and so has had a good couple of games knocking them down,” Smith said. “No matter whether she knocks it down, I think her defense, rebounding, she’s always in there battling and competing.”
Charles agrees and feels Allen’s presence on both sides of the court. “You know she goes overseas and coming back and just her just having the confidence that she does being a great shooter, being able to play on both sides of the court for us,” she said. “Not only offensively but also defensively getting tips, rebounding, [she’s] very responsive to what the coaches ask and what other players around her ask. She is an all-around great player, a great person.”
Allen has admitted that playing under both Bill Laimbeer and now Katie Smith has instilled a desire to always be on her feet and ready whenever her number is called. “[Bill] was really good for my game,” she told CBS Local. “And I mean that so fully because he did put you on the spot quite a bit. He would question if you could do this, and you had a point to prove every single time…”
In 2014 she was asked about her “favourite saying” in a Q&A video for the WNBL. “Take every opportunity as it comes.” Her motto reflects her game. And she takes every and any opportunity to help others as well. She doesn’t have to be asked.
She considers this group of people a collective who she can call friends. Even when she was sidelined with a broken hand, her commitment to this team didn’t cease. On the Liberty’s pride night in June, I asked her about her very visible battle cries from the bench each time teammate and pal Amanda Zahui B. made a three-ball against the Sparks. (There were eight of those.)
“I think it actually says a lot about our group and how we are quite close-knit,” she said before tipoff on New York’s June 28 matchup against Dallas. “Everyone’s success is everyone’s happiness. I think that’s a fantastic thing.”
Between wiping a wet floor during a game, helping a teammate up or just being an energetic presence on the bench, Allen desires for the Liberty to know that she has their back. Apparently, they have hers as well. And every reaction to each and every Allen score was more than just a singular battle cry. It was a reverse domino effect.
When Allen received the ball, it would start with Boyd already up off her chair, Zahui B. would bend her knees about to stand, and then they followed by Reshanda Gray, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Bria Hartley and Asia Durr rising one by one. On a push-off from Odyssey Sims that wasn’t called in the second quarter, Allen was able to get a jump shot to roll in. The dominos rose with Gray waving her Gatorade towel like a flag and Raincock-Ekunwe leapfrogging from bending her knees. She was hoping that the Aussie’s shot would fall in. And it did.
But here’s the irony: Allen doesn’t show a lot of emotion herself on the court after a score.
Does “Spida” have a lucky charm? According to her, she might.
Before tipoff, a man in white wearing a white straw fedora appeared on the court. He gave Amanda Zahui B. a quick hug and then found his seat right underneath one of the baskets. John Allen was in White Plains to ultimately watch his daughter reach a career mark.
Allen’s father also limited his outward emotion when his daughter scored any of her 11 buckets. When the ball was released from his daughter’s hands, John Allen would pull his neck back, and waited to see if the ball was going to land in the hole. Then he’d cross his legs and clap once the ball slid through the hoop.
The one exception was the Aussie’s 26th point.
“Yeah it was obviously a good feeling,” Allen said in the locker room postgame. “I don’t show a whole lot of emotion….
I interrupt her and say: “But you put that one up, right?” (Referring to Allen putting her index finger up the sky following her wide-open three-pointer.)
“I did. Hmmmmm…” (She giggles a bit.) … “that did happen…” (She giggles again.)
Father like daughter or daughter like father. On the 26th point and Allen’s final three-ball, her dad put his hands together in one steady clap while jerking his head. He crossed his leg and continued to clap. His mouth was open wide. As the kids say, he was shook.
When I asked her what it was like to have her father in the stands, she responded that this isn’t his first time this season. He was at the Chicago game that started it all. The first game this season to break her career-high. “So maybe he’s my lucky charm?,” she said. “I don’t know. But it’s special for me. He hasn’t seen me play over here in America for a little while. So I know he’s very very proud. But I really do like having him in the stands.”
If New York wants to thrive, let the “Spida” run alive
New York hasn’t won a game since before the All-Star break. While Rebecca Allen is stepping up as a result of more consistent minutes, it’s worth pointing out: maybe she should start.
Yes, this performance came off the bench. Did I not lead with that? Since day one, namely the buzzer-beating season-opening loss to the Indiana Fever on May 24, I noticed how much she provides defensively when she’s able to set a tone from tipoff onward.
When Allen is on the court, New York’s defense vastly improves. The numbers do not lie. When she’s off the court, the Liberty’s defensive rating worsens by more than 10 points.
After some giggles and smiles in the locker room, Allen became a lot more somber when discussing her team’s current situation. Turnovers continue to be a nemesis. But I asked her how they ameliorate their ball-handling struggles.
“By handling the pressure,” she said. “Especially when you saw how [the Lynx] camp out in the second half, they ramped it up. I guess they made changes and so when they make changes, we need to go do that too. And sometimes I find that we can go on our back foot rather than just attacking and have that mentality. The reffing doesn’t matter, you’ve got to play your game.”
Allen will continue to play her game and give New York her 110 percent effort. She’ll put her head down and do as she says: “take every opportunity as it comes.”
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