It’s easy to say the New York Liberty ran into early season MVP candidates A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces) and Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun), but the reality is the Liberty was defeated by more established and dominant teams. New York’s early season success took other teams by surprise, but the scouts have now mapped out the team’s strengths and weaknesses and the battles have become fiercer.
“When we were 4–1 or 5–1, I said, ‘Teams are going to counter and we’re going to have to have the next chess move.’ That’s where we’re at now. We’ve got to have the next chess move. I think at the end of the day, it’s going to be good for us,” said Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins following New York’s 85–64 loss to Connecticut.
“For them to keep fighting and figure out ways to execute against that pressure, I thought it was really valuable time, and I thought our team did their best to utilize it,” he added. “It’s a long season and we’re not at full strength yet.”
Coming off the bench, Rebecca Allen scored in double figures in the games against the Aces and the Sun, the only Liberty player in double digits in the Sun game. The 28-year-old Aussie is in her sixth season with the Liberty (she sat out last year’s wubble season) and has often stepped up when called upon.
“We’re trying to make sure that we’re always coming with a whole lot of energy,” said Allen. “We say that as the bench come into the game we want to make sure there’s no drop-offs from the starters. So, if my job is to come in and bring energy, I’m going to try and do that in every way I can—defensively first and then offensively—and I know my teammates are doing the same.
“I’m trying to use my advantages when I’m playing against the post players,” she added. “I know my job is to come in and play defense first, and I’m just putting a lot of focus into that.”
The Liberty is currently on an eight-day break from games before starting a West Coast road trip. That time is being spent resting, practicing, studying film and working on details that need attention. The next game is on Sunday against the Phoenix Mercury.
Allen said the players are motivated to improve during this time. “It’s not a good feeling to lose like this,” she said. “I know we’re going to work really hard this week, especially because teams are being extra physical.”