In their final game before the WNBA All-Star Game, the New York Liberty dropped a close one on the road to the Connecticut Sun, falling 70-63. Both teams played well on the defensive end, but the Sun were able to make more plays down the stretch and New York was hobbled by a Kia Nurse elbow injury that limited her to 18 minutes of action. Nurse was 0-for-8 from the floor and made a pair of free throws.
Two New York players scored in double figures, with Tina Charles leading the way with 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Bria Hartley added 12 points.
For the second game in a row, Tanisha Wright got the start at point guard over Brittany Boyd. Boyd ultimately played 13 minutes, about the same amount as Marine Johannès and more than Asia Durr, who saw just eight minutes of action in her return from a groin injury that had cost her the past eight games.
The Sun got 18 points from Jasmine Thomas and outrebounded New York 44-40. Connecticut also had an 11-9 advantage on second chance points.
Let’s look at some takeaways from this game.
The Guard Rotation
With Asia Durr back, we got to see how the team handled their guard minutes. For the sake of easiness, let’s call Kia Nurse a small forward, even though she can play the two and the three.
That leaves New York looking at five guards, with Tanisha Wright and Bria Hartley starting and Brittany Boyd, Asia Durr, and Marine Johannès coming off the bench.
On Wednesday, Durr was the odd one out, playing just eight minutes, but she was also working her way back from a groin injury and with the All-Star break here now, it made sense to not put her back into a full workload.
If I had to guess, the biggest takeaway from the past couple of games is Brittany Boyd’s diminishing role. Boyd’s a good passer, but she’s struggled so far in her career to put together much else beyond passing. With Johannès and Durr on the bench and both capable of running the backup point and also contributing more in terms of scoring, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Boyd’s role continue to fall. In Wright, Hartley, Durr, and Johannès, the Liberty have a potentially exciting backcourt that can score and always have two good ball-handlers on the court at once, and that leaves less room and need for Boyd.
You could also make a case for Hartley playing less. I get it, but I think the current trend of the team seems to be such that Hartley will continue to be a key piece while Boyd falls by the wayside. If you remember before this season, there were a lot of questions about whether or not Boyd would even be back in a Liberty uniform.
(Of course, head coach Katie Smith has really liked the veterans lately, so it’s possible we see Johannès end up playing single-digit minutes, which…should not happen.)
Tina Charles’s Continued Inefficiency
It’s a storyline that I’m honestly tired of bringing up, but Charles had another inefficient game.
4-for-12 is better than the 1-for-13 from last game and the 2-for-15 before that, but Charles hasn’t shot 40 percent or better in a game since July 5th.
Charles is taking a lot of mid-range shots, but she’s not hitting them at the level she has in the past. At this point, I think her game has to move closer to the basket, because her poor shooting this year has stopped being a blip on the radar and is now a real concern. If Amanda Zahui B is going to continue to migrate outward on offense, Charles needs to become more of a post presence.
Rebecca Allen made three shots on Wednesday. They were all threes. No one else on the Liberty or the Sun scored in between those three shots. Allen’s 9-0 run helped give the Liberty a second quarter lead.
Here’s the thing: Rebecca Allen was a starter on this team to start the year before a hand injury forced her to miss over a month. She doesn’t need to go back into the starting five at this point, but if this team is trying to win games, they can use her as a shooter out on the wing.
52.9% of her points have come off three-pointers this season and while Allen isn’t likely to be a member of the next good Liberty team, she does have a role on this current one, which is to fire away from deep. Maybe having her out there for spacing can help Charles get more room to operate inside?
The Liberty will send two players to the All-Star Game, with Kia Nurse starting for Team Delle Donne and Tina Charles coming off the bench for the same team. According to the team, Nurse is fully ready for the All-Star Game despite the elbow injury on Wednesday.
That’s good news for many reasons, but in the context of All-Star weekend, it’s good news because Nurse is also competing in the Three-Point Contest, where she’ll try to dethrone two-time defending champion Allie Quigley.
The Three-Point Contest airs on Friday night starting at 7:00 P.M. ET on ESPN. The All-Star Game is Saturday at 3:30 ET on ABC.