The New York Liberty face off against the WNBA bubble’s elite this week, which features late-night antics on Tuesday night.
In typical 2020 fashion, the worries may just be piling up for the New York Liberty as they enter the second half of their Bradenton adventure.
A tough week of basketball, punctuated by a one-sided second-half showing against the Minnesota Lynx, gives way to matchups against the top two performers in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble thus far. Late-night antics await against the league-leading Seattle Storm on Tuesday night before the current runners-up Chicago Sky loom large on Thursday. The weekend features a showdown against the Connecticut Sun, who are finding their way back after a slow start.
“We need to be tougher. We need to start our games with some heart,” head coach Walt Hopkins said when asked about his expectations for the second half of the season. “That would be a really good start.”
Star of the Week: Jazmine Jones
Jones, the final pick of April’s first-round, made a name for herself last week by reaching double figures in scoring all three games. She opened the week with an infantile career-best 24 points on Tuesday against Los Angeles and ended by registering as the Liberty’s lone double-digit scorer on Saturday in the Minnesota tilt.
“Jaz was a spark, a much, much-need spark in the first quarter and throughout the game,” head coach Walt Hopkins said after the loss to LA. “We were really having trouble scoring and she kind of willed us back into that first quarter and gave us some momentum moving forward.”
It’s far too early to start thinking about 2021, but an awkward reality awaits: with Asia Durr and international opt-outs probably on their way back (not to mention a presumed lottery pick on the way), things could get dangerous for the surplus of non-Sabrina Ionescu rookies. But Jones is making herself essential, creating a metropolitan building block that could stick around for the potential good times ahead with her performances.
The Road Ahead
Tuesday: vs. Seattle (10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go)
The Liberty will hit the midway point of their bubble proceedings against their opening day opponents. New York kept with the Storm for three quarters, but Seattle pulled away with a 21-14 advantage in the fourth quarter en route to an 87-71 victory. Layshia Clarendon led all scorers with 20, while Breanna Stewart had 18 points and eight rebounds in her return from injury. Since then, Seattle (10-1) has left little doubt in terms of who rules the W, having won eight in a row, including the last four by double digits.
Thursday: vs. Chicago (7 p.m. ET, YES/CBSSN)
The Liberty will face off with the Chicago Sky (7-4) for the first time this season. They’ve gotten off to a strong start thanks to strong shooting, currently topping the W with a 49.5 shooting percentage. Chicago took all three meetings last season, including a 101-92 come-from-behind victory that saw them score a WNBA record 42 points in the fourth quarter. The Sky are coming off a 92-67 victory over Atlanta on Sunday.
Saturday: vs. Connecticut (Fox Sports Go/CBSSN)
Defending WNBA finalists, the Sun (4-7) got off to a tough start with some of their most notable names opting-out of the bubble proceedings. Connecticut has won three of their last four contests and took all three meetings from the Liberty last season. The game will serve as a bit of reunion for Clarendon, who partook in nine games with the Sun prior to signing with the Liberty this offseason.
They Said It
“I just want to win…I would’ve taken five points and us winning rather than 24 and us losing.”-Jazmine Jones after her career-best 24 points in a 93-78 loss to Los Angeles
“Her stepping up and playing the PG, which is not really her position, she’s doing an incredible job of observing everything that Layshia’s doing, following her way. She also allows herself to make mistakes at first but then correct them. She’s a quick learner and she’s doing great.”-Amanda Zahui B on Jazmine Jones
“As we move forward, every team takes a little bit more responsibility rather than the league, since we’re not centralized anymore. I’m sure many players will continue to use their platform even when they’re overseas or coming back next year. Just finding new ways to spread awareness, I think that’s been one of the strongest and most impactful things about this season. Telling the stories of different women who have been victimized by police brutality or just initiative whether it’s voting or just educating at large.”-Jocelyn Willoughby on keeping the social justice messages alive after the bubble season
“She’s still getting in her shooting in the gym. Every time we have option shooting, she’s there. She’s doing that work. The best in the world go through slumps. She’s still putting in the work. She had a conversation with coach Walt on what else she can be doing when her shot aren’t falling. I think you saw it tonight, she had six rebounds, she had three assists, she got other people going…she just played with a lot of energy and hustle…she’s finding other ways to impact the game.”-Layshia Clarendon on Kia Nurse
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags