Rebecca Allen,

New York Liberty vs. Los Angeles Sparks (6/4/2019): Recap

The New York Liberty had chances to break a winless streak that dates back to last July. They had chances to deliver a win on head coach Katie Smith’s birthday. They had chances, but a hot finish from Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray — who scored 29 points — ended them, dropping the Liberty to 0-3 on the year and stretching their regular season winless streak to 16 games.

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It wasn’t all bad news for the Liberty, though, as they looked competitive against one of the league’s better teams, and the afternoon also featured Tina Charles breaking the all-time scoring record for the franchise. Charles has scored 3248 points as a member of the Liberty, surpassing the previous mark set by Vickie Johnson. Charles had 21 points on the day to go along with 14 rebounds, though she shot just 8-for-24 from the floor.

Let’s look at some key takeaways from this game.

Reshanda Gray is for real

Once upon a time, Reshanda Gray looked like she wasn’t going to make the Liberty’s final roster, but she’s made the most of her opportunities and is already, after three games, the team’s main bench big.

Where Gray’s been excelling for this team is in the putback game. On Tuesday, Gray grabbed three offensive boards, turning the first two in second-chance points. On the day, she finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Her 27.3 offensive rebound percent was the best on either team.

Gray’s emergence also has another benefit for the Liberty, because it means they can leave Han Xu and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe on the bench more. Neither player saw the floor in this matchup, and as long as Gray is hitting the glass and creating additional opportunities for New York, I’m not sure why this team would expand their big rotation.

Turnovers Continue to Hurt

17 turnovers on Tuesday for the Liberty, which puts their overall average this year at 16.3. That puts them fourth in the WNBA in turnovers per game, and while it’s still early, it’s not a great start for this team, especially when they have the league’s third-lowest field goal percentage and can’t afford to be giving up shot attempts.

On Monday, Amanda Zahui B and Bria Hartley both had four turnovers. Hartley’s averaging a career-high 2.7 turnovers per game this season, but with her set to depart next week for her commitments in Europe, the backup point guard issue — and what it means in terms of this team’s propensity for turnovers — is a big question mark.

Amanda Zahui B!

Turnovers aside, Amanda Zahui B had her best game of the season on Monday. While she scored just six points on 2-for-6 shooting, Zahui B grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked six shots, the best mark of her career and the first time she blocked more than three shots since the fourth game of her career back in 2015.

Of Zahui’s six blocks, there was the above one where she ran the floor, stuck with Chiney Ogwumike, and got the block, but where she was at her best was when she was rotating over in help defense.

Because we haven’t seen this from her in the past, it’s hard to know if we should expect more Zahui blocks this year, but she played a good game in this one, finding her spots defensively and knocking down a couple of shots offensively, and that’s really what this team needs her to do.

Other takeaways

  • Asia Durr made her second career start, finishing with nine points, two rebounds, and an assist. With Bria Hartley set to head overseas soon, Durr might need up with the ball in her hands more when Brittany Boyd sits, but for now she’s mostly operating as an off-ball option.
  • Speaking of Boyd, six assists and four steals for her in this one.
  • A neat takeaway: Asia Durr and Tina Charles made assisted and unassisted shots, but everyone else on the roster made only one or the other in this one, with Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray making all their shots unassisted. Boyd’s the point guard and Gray’s generating a lot of her scoring on second chance opportunities, so this shows a lot about how pass-happy this team is.
  • 12 lead changes in this one. There were no lead changes in Saturday’s loss to the Fever.

Liberty Quotes

Coach Katie Smith’s opening remarks

“Best effort of the season out of the three games. I thought we were locked in defensively and I thought offensively we had people who were aggressive. It was night and day from Indiana to here. They had a couple defensive stops, three blocks in a row that really hurt us when we had decent looks, but we have to find a way to get those in or get to the free throw line.”

Coach Katie’s message to the team

“Honestly, after our last performance this is a huge step forward. It was a great response to a disappointing game at Indiana. I thought our defense was locked in from start to finish, our help-side was in, and they took care of each other. I think it was a building block that we need to make sure we are doing with energy, effort and discipline on Friday. If we do this every single night, if we compete like this, we are going to win some ball games. That’s what we’re telling them that we are growing we are building and on the other end we will find ways to put that thing in the whole”

Coach Katie’s thoughts on the team

“I am very very pleased about our effort today and with the way we bounced because it wasn’t fun at Indiana. I think for all of us from the team on to step out to and come in ready to go today is a huge step for us. I’d love to see this on Friday night and again i’ll ride with our team anytime”

Coach Katie’s advice to Tina to keep her head up

“At the end of the day it’s about who you are on a day to day bases. How do you perform, who are you and that’s what she does she shows up. If you do everything you can, you’re locked in, you’re doing it together and competing every day. You can’t always dictate wins and losses or whether you win championship, but you can dictate what you do and who you are on a day to day basis. You have to be who you are, the best version of you where you’re at every single day and then hopefully things start evolving and everyone’s coming along, and then good things happen. You have to trust the process and do it on a daily basis to build. I just keep telling her you have to keep showing up because it’s on you, it’s your legacy both individually and as a team of how you go about your business on a day to day.”

Reshanda Gray on today’s game

“We are a work in progress, I feel like we definitely improved a lot since our last game…and we just have to go back and watch film but we are starting to get there..we are starting to be the team that we want to be…we just have to be more consistent with it…”

Tina Charles on all time scoring record

“It means a whole lot…this franchise means world to me, so for that to happen, I would of never imagined it… I’m just grateful to be able to play in my city, New York.”

Tina on the matchup and her teammates

“It was great, we definitely kept them on their heels..i don’t think either team could have been comfortable or relaxed. I think everyone who stepped on the court gave their best effort. Everything started with Amanda Zahui B and the defense she was playing. Allen came in and made some big shots for us. Everybody did what they had to do.”

Tina on Reshanda Gray

“She’s very dedicated. She’s the first one in the gym..she’s always working out with Spoon..always working on her moves, she asks a lot of questions, and pays attention to detail..she just wants to do all the little things..she’s very encouraging and brings the I’m really happy that we have her.

Tina to Liberty Fans

“I think our fans are very dedicated, very loyal… New Yorkers are very loyal, especially being in Westchester, we get a great crowd.”

Amanda Zahui B on “trusting the process”

“It’s definitely an improvement. We just gotta keep building on this and take on DC and you know we gotta trust the process..cause if we don’t trust it than we are going to give up, and we don’t want to give up..we trust the process because we believe in each other, we believe in Katie and the staff, and we believe in ourselves…

Amanda on school day

“I hope that they had fun. I hope they saw that we had fun on the court and that they had fun with whatever they are doing, than they are going to be happy…whether you want to work in a bakery or be a basketball player as long as you have fun with it, you can spread joy, happiness, and light to other people and that’s the only thing you can do in this world.”

Amanda on Reshanda Gray

“Man that girl is a beast, I don’t care what anybody says, that girl is a beast… Seeing her come off the bench and seeing that 6th man that has that energy, it has kind of been know I’ve been the 6th man in previous years,but there is an extra fire to her and I am so happy, like it makes me so happy to see her be successful.”

Amanda on her 6 blocks

“Yeah just staying focused and not fouling. You know in the past I have been foul prone…staying disciplined, owning the new role I’ve been given.”