New York has improved over an initial disastrous post-All-Star stretch, but consistent lingering issues continue to prevent the Liberty from their first “W” in a month
The weekend suspensions of Kristine Anigwe, Kayla Thornton and Brittney Griner presented a golden opportunity for the New York Liberty to gain some confidence and hopefully wins. They might have achieved a little bit of the former due to some more cohesive team play, but New York is yet to achieve the later. The Liberty are still floating on an eight-game losing streak. Their last win came against the Candace Parker-less Sparks on June 20 when the modern-day Statue of Liberty Marine Johannès gave the White Plains home crowd perfection.
“I thought we took care of the basketball better,” Head Coach Katie Smith said following the loss against Dallas. “I thought our defense was better tonight, both individually and as a team. I thought, in general, from start to finish, in most facets of the ballgame that we had a better effort than the last time we were here.”
While the number of turnovers against Dallas didn’t drastically decrease for the Liberty as they amassed 16 on Friday night, New York managed to throw it away ten times against the Wings. Against the Mercury, however, that number of rotten passes came down to single digits.
Tanisha Wright, who put up a season-high point total on Sunday against the Mercury, believed that a difference has been New York’s recent defensive effort.
“The difference in not just this game but is being locked in the most on the defensive end,” she said postgame on Sunday. “Taking away things that we know personnel-wise that they want to do. We just have to be better at doing that and smarter.”
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Lingering issues in the last month
A Lack of decisiveness and accuracy on passes quenches the Liberty’s Fire. But here’s the positive, the magnitude of these sloppy passes is decreasing. But it isn’t a reach to say that it’s not necessarily just about the volume of total turnovers, but also about the timing of said takeaways. Against both Dallas and Phoenix, the Liberty turned the ball over multiple times in the fourth quarter. Both contests were well within reach, which wasn’t the case against Minnesota on Tuesday or Seattle at Barclays.
In a game where Tina Charles scored 23 points, the seven-time All-Star committed the turnover that lost New York the game on Sunday. Lellani Mitchell intercepted the pass in the backcourt intended for Bria Hartley and was able to take her time and draw a pick from Brianna Turner that would prevent Kia Nurse from getting in the way of her three-pointer from the top of the key. Before that turnover, the Liberty were down one point with a little over a minute left in regulation.
Following the interception and the three-ball, however, New York submerged into a four-point deficit with only 53 seconds left on the clock. Hope remained alive for Katie Smith‘s squad until Bria Hartley‘s overhead pass intended for Nurse was caught by a leaping DeWanna Bonner who took the ball to the hoop without a contest.
Both fourth-quarter turnovers could have been avoided with a ball fake and a different type of pass. Hartley misread Charles’ pass and bent down to accept one-off a bounce that never came. Hartley also had space to bounce the ball over to Nurse instead of throwing the ball right into Bonner’s field of view.
In Dallas, New York lost the game with a little over seven minutes in regulation on two straight inaccurate passes from Wright intended for Nurse in transition. The Wings’ defense was behind the ball and the ball didn’t even catch the rim for four potential points. What made this excruciating to watch was that New York’s defense labored for two straight stops which only led to their own turnovers. The Liberty didn’t help themselves and didn’t put the ball in the hole when it mattered, and that was a theme that continued two days later in Phoenix.