The NY Liberty’s Natasha Howard scored 30 points in her return to action from an injury (307618)
Credit: WNBA photo

After the month-long break for the Olympics, the WNBA is back in action. The New York Liberty opened the second half of the season in Minnesota, where the team was bested by the Minnesota Lynx 88–78. The game marked the return of Natasha Howard, who suffered an injury shortly after joining the Liberty. The three-time WNBA Champion (with the Seattle Storm) put up 30 points and three other Liberty players scored in double figures, but it simply wasn’t enough.

“I don’t think we executed down the stretch offensively,” said coach Walt Hopkins. “We took some rushed shots. One time, we didn’t run one of the plays we drew up. … That last five minutes I thought our offense wasn’t great and then obviously we ended up fouling quite a bit pretty much throughout the game. That was a big difference in the game.”

Hopkins said there was a clear game plan that wasn’t successfully executed. The team still lacks consistency from start to finish. It’s still a work in progress. Hopkins added that Howard looked and felt great. He was also pleased with Sabrina Ionescu, who had 14 points and seven rebounds.

Sami Whitcomb, who had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists said the Lynx simply executed better than the Liberty. Howard said she felt good but there is still some growing to do as a team.

“It’s there, but we’re still building,” said Howard. During the Olympic break, the remaining players—only Rebecca Allen played in Tokyo (for Australia)—had some vacation time and then spent time together bonding as a team. “Very important to have that bonding, that chemistry with your teammates off the court because it will actually show on the court as well,” said Howard.

Betnijah Laney contributed 12 points and four assists. She said the players did a good job over the break making sure they’re handling pressure and not turning the ball over. “That we’re executing what needs to be executed,” said Laney. “If we can keep that going the rest of the season, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The Liberty returns to home court at Barclays Center with four games over the next two weeks. There will be events celebrating the team’s history. On Sunday, Crystal Robinson, who played with the Liberty from 1999–2005, will be inducted into the Ring of Honor.