On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Liberty had an away game in Seattle against one of the WNBA’s most beat up teams, the Seattle Storm. Last year’s champions have dealt with a myriad of issues and are currently missing three of their four best players, with Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd all missing time. Stewart’s issues are the worst, as a torn Achilles while she was playing in Europe cost her her season.
Seattle’s done an admirable job this year despite those issues, as forward Natasha Howard has emerged as an MVP candidate. Seattle entered Wednesday’s game with an 8-6 record, solidly in the postseason hunt.
But Seattle’s injury issues caught up to them, as Howard struggled for large parts of the game and the Liberty were able to take advantage, sneaking away with an 84-83 victory.
For New York, it was the Tina and Kia show, as Tina Charles and Kia Nurse combined to score 50 points, with Charles scoring 26 points — including the game-winning basket with a minute left — on 11-for-22 shooting. Nurse added 24 of her own, including four three-pointers.
Seattle led by as many as 11 in third quarter, winning the quarter 30-19. New York, though, won the fourth quarter 24-13.
Let’s look at a few takeaways from this one.
Tanisha Wright over Asia Durr
One thing about this game is how much more run Tanisha Wright got later in the game than Asia Durr. Durr played a career-low 20 minutes, including just one minute in the fourth, when she briefly subbed in for Wright.
The Liberty are basically trying to do two things at once right now, and the Wright/Durr minutes split is indicative of this. This is a team that came into the season without a lot of playoff hope, which led us to expect heavy minutes for Durr as a rookie, since playing for the future was what mattered.
But the Liberty are now 6-7 in a league where two-thirds of the teams make the postseason, and Wright’s a veteran presence who’s been a more consistent shooter than Durr, so head coach Katie Smith is going to want to have Wright in close games like this.
Asia Durr has a defensive rating of 103.1 this season, while Wright’s is 90.7. That’s a pretty big gap, and Wright’s defensive ability is a key part of why she’s going to continue to play a key role moving forward.
Wright also had this play:
Yes, Durr’s got the potential to be a better player than Wright, but if the Liberty prioritize winning, we’re likely to see more games where Wright plays more minutes.
This Tina Charles game-winning shot
Let’s look at the winning shot from Charles.
And this is why Tina Charles is still one of the most dangerous players in the WNBA.
Charles gets to her spot in the post and Brittany Boyd lobs the ball over the Charles. It’s not the greatest pass, going over Charles’ head, but she’s able to take some steps and grab it. The problem, then, is that there are five seconds left on the shot clock and Charles is deeeeeep in the post, so Tanisha Wright’s defender is able to pretty safely go down and double Charles, which leaves Wright open on the perimeter but with the circumstances of the play basically rendering her as a non-entity out there. Charles is going to have to make something happen on her own.
So, she does.
Charles has just a little space to work with, so she dribbles it once to get in a better spot and then throws up the hook shot. It lands perfectly. The Liberty take the lead and don’t relinquish it.
It wasn’t too long ago that people were wondering what Brittany Boyd’s future with this team was. Through four seasons with the Liberty, Boyd was still not playing up to her potential, and an Achilles tear in 2017 put her future in jeopardy, as Achilles tears are the hardest injury to come back from.
But Boyd’s been playing some really, really good basketball lately, and it looks like she’s finally fully recovered from that injury and making a leap.
Boyd had 10 assists in this game, her second game of the year with double-digit assists. She had three steals as well to go along with her seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.
I don’t think Boyd’s ever going to be a volume scorer, but this team is built pretty much perfectly for her to not need to be. Ideally, with Nurse and Durr on the perimeter, Charles inside, and Amanda Zahui B.sometimes inside and sometimes outside, a crunch time lineup for the Liberty would only need Boyd to be able to deliver the right passes and hit open shots if she gets an open look.
Seattle really has some weird defensive things going on on this play. They let Boyd get open from the arc, then kind of slowly walk up towards her, then the Liberty set dual screens to get that defender off of Boyd, which then leads to Courtney Paris appearing from somewhere with a late challenge, which is too late to make a difference. If Boyd can hit these kind of shots, she’ll be doing exactly what the Liberty need her to be doing.