It has been a rough start to the season for the New York Liberty. Despite their promising young core, their talent has not translated to wins. On Friday night, the Liberty looked to end their cold start against the Washington Mystics, one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
This matchup featured two of the premier posts in Tina Charles and Elena Delle Donne, who could have been teammates at UCONN had Delle Donne not had to drop out and instead attend the University of Delaware.
The game started out promising for the Liberty, who jumped out to a 26-20 lead after the first quarter thanks to 11 first quarter points from Tina Charles.
It was all Mystics from that point. While Delle Donne did not have her best game, finishing with only 13 points on 5-14 shooting, her were able to pick up the slack and guided the Mystics to the 94-85 victory.
Here are the three most important takeaways from last night’s game.
Tina Charles’ dominance
After a rough past few games for the Liberty All-Star forward, Charles bounced back in a major way. Although she was not able to get the team a victory, it was still a welcome sight to see the All-Star dominate. Charles scored 27 points while going 10-for-20 from the field despite only hitting one of her five threes. Going forward, Charles will need to continue to have performances such as these if the Liberty are to turn their season around.
Inconsistent bench production
With the Liberty starters struggling so far, it has been imperative for the bench to produce at a high level. While they have shown flashes, the second unit has yet to show the consistency necessary to win games. Tonight, it was guard Bria Hartley, who chipped in 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists, as well forward Rebecca Allen‘s 13 points who came to play. While obviously no one is expecting every member of the second unit to play at the same level as the starting unit, having a cohesive unit that Katie Smith can rely on.
Could the Liberty use Kiah Stokes?
It has been clear in the infant WNBA season that the Liberty’s current crop of centers are not enough. With Kiah Stokes starting the season off overseas, New York expected a tandem of Amanda Zahui B.and rookie Han Xu to be used. However, Han does not seem to be ready yet for the physicality of the WNBA and Zahui B has largely struggled in the opening four games.
One possible solution to this problem is the return of Kiah Stokes. While she has never played a major role in her WNBA career, there has been optimism about what she could bring to the team this season. As the team’s other options have not seemed to work out so far, it would not hurt to give Stokes a chance once she comes back from overseas
Coach Katie Smith’s opening statement:
“I thought it was solid. Effort was there, togetherness was there. We battled. We gave ourselves a shot. Too many turnovers, too many easy buckets. We had a couple of mental breakdowns on when and when not to help. Overall, pleased. Overall, we know we can play with anybody in this league. We’re going to find a way to get one of these wins, we’re building. Again, it’s not fun to lose, but we’re on our way to put some things together and get ourselves in a win column.”
Coach Katie on the first three home losses being in the single digits and if the team is trending in the right direction:
“There’s some stuff that’s been a little too consistent, like the turnovers have been a problem, we’ve addressed it, talked about it in practice, we’ve made them run, we’ve showed them, we’ve talked about the importance of that. We foul too much, that’s something we did last year. Those are little things that are correctable and discipline type of stuff, but I think we are, I thought their energy, their focus, every single person that came in the game was ready to rock n roll and we had a shot tonight to be able to get a win.”
Coach Katie on keeping Elena to only 11 points:
“I think, partly, Tina had a really good game tonight defensively. I thought our other bigs were in, a lot of attention was focused on her (Elena), making her earn it, we didn’t give her too many offensive boards and didn’t put her to the free throw line too often. I thought out team was locked in on that. I thought our team was locked in on making sure Elena wasn’t the one that beat us, but again we still got to cover and limit everyone else too.”
Tina Charles on Team’s Overall Effort:
“If there is anything that is showing it’s our effort…now we just have to convert that into wins and hopefully we can start that the day after tomorrow…We just have to keep our heads up.”
Tina Charles on Elena Delle Donne:
“We were really just keying on her…I’ve played against her for the past four to five years…I love playing against the best players, I think that’s where you can see where you are as an individual…I looked forward to playing against Elena tonight.”
Tina Charles on playing with Gray and Zahui B:
“Their energy, just how bad they want it individually to be great in this
league…Reshanda Gray is always the first one in the gym…and Amanda Zahui B.gives great energy and is very vocal and also very confident in who she is and what she can bring.”
Bria Hartley on Role:
“It’s been great, I think I have worked on my leadership through the years becoming more of a student of the game and learning the game…and just through experience, just trying to show the younger players what they can do, telling them about scouts and other players…and just helping them anyway I can.”
Bria Hartley on Missing link:
“I think right now we just need to take care of the little things…taking care of the ball, if you look at the last four games it’s really turnovers that have been bad…and also fouling were letting people get to the foul line and giving them easy buckets rather than a contested shot.”
Rebecca Allen on Today’s game:
“Disappointed to get the loss…we really wanted that first win of the season…I think it’s about getting the right stop’s and knowing our personnel…we definitely have stuff to grow on, but I feel like each game were definitely getting there.”
Rebecca Allen on preparing for next game:
“We just gotta lock in and let this game go…Vegas is a really good opponent…so we got practice tomorrow, so we got to lock in to their set’s and come up with a good game plan.”