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New York Liberty Seek Shooting Balance After Fall to Indiana Fever



New York Liberty Seek Shooting Balance After Fall to Indiana Fever

Despite its role in energizing women’s basketball as a whole, the Caitlin Clark effect has its share of victims, the latest of which was the New York Liberty’s WNBA-best five-game winning streak.

Clark’s triple-double, the first of its rookie kind, on Saturday victimized the Liberty, who saw their second winning streak of at least five games come to an end.

Coming back to beautify the scoreboard to the tune of an 83-78 final was a moral victory for the Liberty (17-4), who came back from a deficit that summitted at 12 in the first period. Those, however, are far from valid currency on the WNBA leaderboard, which now situates New York at the top next to the Connecticut Sun as the Olympic break approaches.

In the aftermath, point guard Sabrina Ionescu felt that Indiana hadn’t stopped New York from playing “Liberty basketball,” but hinted that a sense of balance and adjustment would perhaps be necessary as the team starts to face familiar foes again.

Sabrina Ionescu and Caitlin Clark

Brandon Todd, NY Liberty

“We played Liberty basketball, but (we had to understand) this is their Super Bowl game,” Ionescu,she of a game-best 22 points, said of the futile attempt to take a four-game set from Indiana. “We’ve beaten them three times this year already. We knew they were going to come into this game really hungry and it’s tough to beat a team four times. Every team has grown, especially this young team.”

“I don’t think it was necessarily us not playing our style of basketball. It’s just understanding that we had to come in with a sense of urgency knowing it’s not going to be as easy as it was in the first couple of games that we were able to go up against them because they’ve just grown.”

Maintaining the necessary shooting discipline against recurring opponents is vital, and it’ll come up big for the Liberty in the coming days: New York is due in Uncasville for a high-profile matinee against the Sun on Wednesday morning (11 a.m. ET, WWOR). Games against the Sun sandwich a home-and-home with the pesky Chicago Sky as part of the Liberty’s remaining pre-Olympic quartet.

With that in mind, New York is set to seek a sense of balance in its shooting, which skewed toward the outside during Saturday’s game.

The Liberty put up 42 three-pointers on Saturday, accounting for over 59 percent of their tries from the field. While Ionescu and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton hit four each, the rest of the team went 2-of-19 in eager attempts to swipe back momentum amidst Clark’s history and Aliyah Boston’s continued shake-up.

The performance made history of both the sentimental yet bittersweet variety: with her fourth and final, Ionescu is now tied for second on the Liberty’s all-time triples list, united with Becky Hammon a 331 behind only Crystal Robinson (400). With 42 tries for an extra point, the 2024 Liberty also become the first team in WNBA history to have two games with at least 40 tries … alas for Brooklyn, both have been losing efforts (also June 18 in Phoenix)

Curiously, New York sought a dagger from deep despite hitting nearly two-thirds of their double attempts (19-of-29). The Liberty have proven well capable of engaging in shootouts, a natural phenomenon considering Ionescu’s status as three-point royalty. But the expansion of Ionescu’s game, which see her taking over 10 percent more two-point attempts as compared to last season, has propelled New York forward.

Seafoam personnel vowed to use film study to re-open the two-point game, which has afforded New York a sense of discipline when it comes to deploying the three-point weapon.

“Defensively, (Indiana) is a much better team than when we faced them the first three times,” head coach Brondello noted, hinting at another learning experience such as the one that previously allowed them to master the Minnesota Lynx. “They were giving us open threes … We probably settled a little too much but it was the shot that was open. But they were congesting, always scrambling, making it hard for us to score in the paint.”

“Forty-two is a lot when you’re not making any but we’ve got very capable shooters and it was one of those days where the ball wasn’t going in the hole.”

Jonquel Jones

Brandon Todd, NY Liberty

Believing that the excessive shooting could well be a case of good looks simply not falling, New York will also seek to investigate the expansive presence of Jonquel Jones, whose field performances have indirectly affected the Liberty’s fate: including the Commissioner’s Cup Final against Minnesota, the Liberty are 2-4 when she’s held under 10 points (Jones was 2-of-5 for six on Saturday).

Both on and off-floor personnel expressed a desire to turn Jones’ involvement into a team-wide effort, knowing how much her input can change the tide.

“JJ knows how important she is to us,” Brondello said. “We didn’t get her established as much … They were very active, even when she was on the front. She was probably a little hesitant. She missed a few shots there. We want her to be very decisive (when) she’s open on the three, shooting or the next action. She’ll respond in the right way … wasn’t at her best today but we know that she’ll bounce back.”

“It’s about understanding that not every game is going to be the same,” Ionescu noted. “They were obviously taking away JJ, clogging up her roles, making it really difficult and shooters were open. I think it’s about understanding what the defense is giving us and not trying to turn the ball over looking for something too hard, understanding that we’ve just got to continue to find different ways to try and get here open, because she’s obviously really capable of dominating the paint but also spacing the floor.”

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