Fueled by the positive energy of the WNBA All-Star Game, the New York Liberty returned to Barclays Center for two home games against the Las Vegas Aces. Having defeated the Aces in Las Vegas the previous week, hopes were high for the Liberty to score some big home court wins, but it was not to be. The Aces, coached by former Liberty star Becky Hammon, prevailed 107-101 and 108-74.
“They were hot, even Becky alluded to that at the end, but they were great. But we had no resistance and that’s where I’m the most disappointed. We didn’t bring the energy. Sometimes, defense is about hard work. I didn’t think we had teamwork. I’m talking playing together as a team. There were too many open gaps,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello after the second loss to the Aces.
In the game on the 12th, starters Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu both played well, with 20 and 27 points respectively, and Sami Whitcomb came off the bench for 17. In the game on the 14th, Howard again brought offensive power with 19 points and Michaela Onyenwere came off the bench for 14. Brondello said the Aces would likely have won the game, but she wishes the Liberty had shown more fight.
“It’s hard to come back when you let a team like the Aces score 70-plus (71) points in the first half,” said Onyenwere. “A sense of lack of urgency and we looked like we lacked energy. We’ll learn from this and move forward…and get better from there.”
The Liberty is eagerly awaiting the return of Betnijah Laney, who has been spotted at practice, and the increased presence of Marine Johannes, who is still settling in. Han Xu continues to be a steady contributor. There are only three more weeks and 11 games left in the regular season, with the first two weeks of August jam packed with games. There is still time to earn a playoff spot, but everyone needs to step up.
“We’ll watch film, we’ll have practice,” said Whitcomb. “These are the moments that we have to hold ourselves accountable more than each other.”
Following a loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, which marked the return to action of Jocelyn Willoughby, the Liberty heads to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Mystics. The team returns to Barclays for a Saturday evening matchup against the league leading Chicago Sky.