While most of the New York basketball landscape was up in arms — good or bad news depending on what side you’re on — about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joining the Brooklyn Nets yesterday, there was actual basketball happening that involved a New York team, and if you missed the game, you missed a strong performance from the New York Liberty, who went down to Atlanta and beat the Dream 74-58.
If you’ve been reading our Liberty coverage, you’ll notice that our writers have been worried about Liberty star Tina Charles and her inefficient shooting lately, but Charles put up a throwback performance on Sunday, finishing with 24 points on 10-for-24 shooting. It was the first time since June 7th that Charles made 10 or more shots and only the fifth time all year that she shot at least 40% from the field.
Reshanda Gray grabbed double-digit rebounds for the second game in a row as she continues to fill in admirably for Amanda Zahui B while she’s playing EuroBasket. Kia Nurse had a down game, scoring just six points on 2-for-12 shooting, including an 0-for-6 mark from three, but the Liberty got production from Brittany Boyd, who scored 12 points, as well as Tanisha Wright, who scored 13 off the bench.
Let’s look at a few Liberty-related topics.
Tina Charles has a good game
Charles has hit 40% or better from the field in two of her last three games after a pretty bad slump before that. I think it’s just a coincidence that this stretch coincides with Zahui B being away, but we’ll see if Charles can keep it going once she returns.
On Sunday, Charles got off to a hot start, scoring 17 of her 24 in the first half:
As you can see from the highlights above, Charles did all of her work inside the three-point line, taking just one attempt from deep. Charles has REALLY struggled with the three this season, so seeing her get back to her old game of interior moves and midrange shots is probably for the best at this point.
Charles is still a very effective post scorer, and Sunday’s game showcased that as she worked to get the ball to the basket, getting deep penetration before catching the ball or backing the Dream defense down. Atlanta has given up a lot of points this season, but they were still among the league’s best teams at limiting points in the paint. That…didn’t really matter on Sunday, as New York scored 48 points in the paint. The Dream managed just 18. That’s, umm…a pretty good indication of why the Liberty won this game.
Reshanda Gray’s rebounding
Reshanda Gray has been such a good find this season. She went from the bubble in free agency to an indispensable part of this team, someone whose roster spot will be safe once Kiah Stokes returns to the fold in July. Gray might have even done enough to stay as the team’s third big once Stokes arrives, though we’ll have to see about that.
The reason Gray is so good? She’s got almost a sixth sense for rebounding.
Gray positions herself well on both ends of the court to get rebounds, but I continue to be mostly impressed by her offensive rebounding. She had five in this game. She’s sixth in the WNBA in offensive rebounds per game at 2.9 despite playing under 20 minutes per contest, and she’s one of three players — the others being Monique Billings and Teaira McCowan — to play at least 10 minutes per game and have an offensive rebounding rate of 14 percent or better. Gray’s work on that end of the court creates additional opportunities, which helps explain why the Liberty lead the WNBA in second chance points per game.
To bring it back to Tina Charles for a second, the Charles and Gray combination basically gives the Liberty two interior players on the court at the same time who know how to create second chances. While those two can mess up the spacing for the team’s perimeter players some, they’re also able to generate additional looks when they play together, helping the Liberty offense.
Some EuroBasket updates
I was going to talk about Brittany Boyd leading the team in points on Sunday, but instead, let’s update some EuroBasket things.
EuroBasket is currently happening (and airing on ESPN+, if you have access to that), and four current Liberty players are participating. Here’s how they’ve done:
Amanda Zahui B.: As I type this, Zahui B is currently playing against Latvia. But before that, she was putting up 17.7 points and 11 boards per contest and continuing to expand her outside game. (She just got fouled while taking a three. This is your up to the minute Zahui B update.)
Bria Hartley: Hartley leads France in scoring at 11.7 points per game. She also is adding 3.7 assists per contest.
Kiah Stokes: Turkey’s leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, Stokes is also adding 10.7 rebounds per game as well.
Marine Johannes: Also on the French team, Johannes has spent all year in Europe but is on the Liberty roster, so I’d assume she makes her way over here after EuroBasket. In three games, she’s scoring eight points per game on 36.4% shooting with two assists and 1.3 steals per contest. Not a great showing, but signs of her promise are there.