On Sunday, the Liberty broke their long losing streak and won their first game of the season despite not having rookie guard Asia Durr, who missed the game with an illness. On Wednesday, Durr was back, and the Liberty won their second game of the season with a 75-69 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
Nurse finished the game with 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting while playing all 40 minutes of the game. With Rebecca Allen (hand) out for at least two weeks and Bria Hartley in Europe for EuroBasket, the Liberty have big question marks about their depth in the backcourt and on the wing, and while Nurse playing 40 minutes per game isn’t a long term solution to that issue, it worked on Wednesday.
The Liberty won even with Tina Charles finishing just fourth on the team in scoring and with zero points from their bench. Asia Durr had her best game as a pro, finishing with 20 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
Let’s look at some key takeaways from this game.
Asia Durr’s Career Night
Durr’s 20 points were the most of her young career and came just a game after Durr was a late scratch because of illness. She was able to consistently hit shots and get to the basket in this one.
One big part of Durr’s potential impact in the WNBA is her ability to operate with the ball in her hand. With Bria Hartley gone for the next month, Durr will have more chances to run the offense when Brittany Boyd sits, and while on this play Boyd’s the initial ball-handler, she gets the ball to Durr, who drives in and pulls up for the midrange jumper. Durr has the ability to be an elite midrange shooter for the Liberty, someone whose ability in that aspect of the game is reminiscent of that of another current New York combo guard, Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell. Durr’s mix of upside, shooting skill, and playmaking ability are going to be huge for the future of this team, and while she’s likely to have some uneven games over the course of the season, the future is bright.
By the way, here are some more of Durr’s highlights from Wednesday:
Durr’s ability to get through traffic is, for lack of a better term, really good. On this play, the Lynx are able to tip the ball, but Durr adjusts to the tip, still grabs it, and then weaves through the defense.
Here’s another example of Durr getting to the basket. She’s an extremely quick player who’s just going to keep getting better.
Durr later iced the game with this shot:
It was the perfect ending to Durr’s first 20-point WNBA outing.
Kia Nurse’s Fourth Quarter Run
Kia Nurse scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter, and with the Lynx doing their best to try to get back into the game, Nurse’s run was a huge part of keeping the Liberty ahead.
Nurse’s three-point shooting was a big part of this victory, and this year has shown that when her shot is on, she can be one of the league’s best shooters from deep. Nurse is fourth in the WNBA in three-point attempts per game at 5.8, and she’s shooting more efficiently than anyone else in the top five at 45.7 percent.
Aside from Tina Charles, Nurse is the Liberty’s most important player right now. Her ability to drain shots from deep helps drive the team’s wins, and she’s attempting 8.5 threes per game in the team’s two wins and just 4.5 in the team’s losses.
Again, Nurse can’t play 40 minutes per night, but there’s a reason that she was the player to play all those minutes on Wednesday, and that’s that head coach Katie Smith trusts Nurse. Even though she made a couple of bad passes late and ended up with four turnovers, the Liberty need Nurse on the floor if they want to win games.
So, About The Bench…
So, the Liberty got zero points from the bench on Wednesday. Only three bench players even played, with Tiffany Bias playing 2:22 in the first half and none in the second half.
Wednesday, that lack of bench production worked out fine. Durr and Nurse had their best nights of the year. Amanda Zahui B.continued to put up strong numbers.
Zahui B will be going off to EuroBasket soon, at which point the Liberty should qualify for a hardship waiver and be able to add another player. And once July gets here, Kiah Stokes, Marine Johannes, and Bria Hartley will be back, giving this team a big boost in terms of depth.
But for now, the Liberty have seven players that they trust to have in lineups, which leaves them with basically no margin for error. The biggest issue is in the front court, where Zahui B’s departure will leave them with two players in the front court who are currently part of the team’s rotation. At that point, Katie Smith will have to decide if Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe or Han Xu are capable of playing minutes on this team.
Coach Katie Smith Opening Statement:
“Happy with the win. Thought lots of folks showed up, energy was good again. Too many turnovers again, we kinda kept them in the ball game a little tighter than we needed to but making plays at the end. Tanisha, Zahui, Nurse, Durr, Tina, just really I thought really came in and did a great job tonight.”
Coach Katie on Team Depth:
“It does speak a lot for us that we have other people knocking down shots and people being aggressive, you know reading the defense better and having those opportunities and finding those folks so again stuff that we want to instill in them and again, people hit shots, other people hit shots, and it’s gonna open other things for Tina…that depth that we have scoring is huge, something that we wanna continue to build off of and make sure that every single person has confidence in what they’re doing.”
Coach Katie on Amanda Zahui B.:
“Zahui, from last year to this year, she’s built on that, her motor, she’s challenged herself to crash and be a rebounder on every single possession. I think I’ve said it before, I think it takes an extreme amount of energy to crash on every possession, something I would not do, but I think it is something that she’s bought into. She is creating a lot of havoc on both ends and she’s knocking down shots and being aggressive which, she has to be, she has to put pressure on them. So I just think her overall game and also her help defense and her overall defense without fouling has been big for us.”
Coach Katie on Kia Nurse:
“Her offense, her defense, she’s able to function even when she’s a bit tired so I think she just had a monster game and came up really big.”
Coach Katie on Team Defense:
“I think our defense, the way we fly around, understanding the personnel who we’re playing against what we’re trying to do, has to continue to improve to give ourselves a chance to win in this league. And when we put points on the board, not turning it over, obviously that dictated it we could’ve put a few more points on the board but our defense, that energy, that rebounding has to be there and the rest of it, scoring, field goal percentage, we’ll take whatever comes.”
Amanda Zahui B. on her improved mindset:
“Tanisha (Wright) has really been harping on me playing like a veteran that the team needs on the floor. I can’t foul, so I had to grow up and make adjustments for the sake of my team.”
Zahui B. on support from New York Liberty fans:
“The New York crowd has been absolutely amazing ever since I’ve been traded here from Tulsa. They have literally been amazing all my four years here, and I appreciate them standing by when I didn’t play, or I would come in with a minute and twenty seconds left in a game and they would go crazy and just showing love and I really appreciate that. I just really love our supporters.”
Kia Nurse on her performance:
“I’m one of those people who whatever the team is going to ask me to do, I’m going to do and for me this year, that has been more of a role for me. We run plays where the first option is a shot coming off a stagger and I’ve learned to step into that and learned to understand that if I get better at shooting and get my feet set underneath me, I’ll be alright. It’s a different role, but it’s definitely a challenge that I like.”
Nurse on the upcoming games:
“For me, I’m really relying on our older vets. Tanisha Wright and Tina Charles do a really great job for leadership with us and I’m just trying to soak it all in, learn what they do well and how I can help on the outside. Going into back to back games is tough, but you just have to really understand that this is part of the game, part of being a professional and getting your body right. It’s a long travel day to go to the West Coast, but just sleep, eat and stay up with it.”