On Friday night, the New York Liberty traveled to Arlington, TX to take on the Dallas Wings. New York was looking to avenge a 23-point loss they suffered to the Wings back on August 1st, and while they weren’t able to get it done — losing 83-77 — they played a hard-fought game and had chances late to take the win.
Unfortunately, fouls and turnovers continued to rear their ugly heads. New York turned the ball over 17 times, and they were 27-for-29 from the free throw line.
Tina Charles led New York with 25 points on 10-for-25 shooting. She also grabbed seven rebounds. Two other Liberty players finished in double digits, as Kia Nurse added 17 points and Bria Hartley put in 12.
The Liberty were once again without Amanda Zahui B (concussion) and Asia Durr (minor groin strain). Zahui B was listed as questionable leading up to the game and will likely be back on the floor soon, while Durr was ruled out ahead of time.
For Dallas, Allisha Gray and Arike Ogunbowale both scored 20-plus points. The two combined for 18 free throw attempts as New York just couldn’t stop from fouling the backcourt duo.
Let’s look at some key takeaways from this game.
Zahui-less Lineup Choices
With Zahui B out, coach Katie Smith once again had decisions to make in terms of lineup choices. Reshanda Gray got the start, but she played under 15 minutes.
That left most of the backup minutes to Rebecca Allen and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.
After the game, Katie Smith told Nets Republic that the four is a place where Rebecca Allen “has the advantage” due to her ability to stretch the floor. She went on to talk about Allen at the four matching up well with other teams that have versatile fours, including New York’s next opponent, the Phoenix Suns, who use DeWanna Bonner at the position.
Using Allen also helps “space the floor for Tina and [New York’s] post players.”
These lineups have put Tina Charles down at the five more often than she’s played there over the past couple of seasons, though when asked about how she has to adapt to lineups where she’s the only traditional post option, Charles said that playing the five is “not really offsetting or off-putting” since she played the position when she first came into the league and during her collegiate days, adding that she’s able to pretty easily “revert back to being a five.” Charles said that “whatever the lineup is, it’s second nature for me.”
The Liberty did close with a lineup that looked a little more traditional, with Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe taking Reshanda Gray’s place with the rest of the starters. Raincock-Ekunwe doesn’t get the most credit, but she’s been playing some really solid basketball this year, and while she doesn’t bring the same rebounding ability to the floor that Gray does, she’s a little more versatile offensively. If Zahui B misses another game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Raincock-Ekunwe with the starters.
Kia Nurse Gets To The Foul Line
One thing that was very clear from press row was that the Dallas Wings were just giving up so many driving lanes. When asked after the game about how she was able to get to the free throw line so much, Kia Nurse laughed and said “the lanes were very open.”
She also added that the Wings weren’t on the same page defensively. Nurse said that she was “trying to listen to their defensive talk” and that the Wings guards were “saying two different things.” That miscommunication was part of how Nurse was able to exploit those issues, drive to the basket, and draw fouls from Dallas defenders who were playing from behind.
Of course, Nurse’s speed and driving ability were a good part of this too. She looked comfortable with the ball in her hands and was able to zip towards the basket pretty much any time she wanted to. Sure, defensive breakdowns help that, but it takes a talented player to take advantage of that.
Nurse had been going through a small slump the last few games, but Friday showed us a good window into how she can avoid those: aggression. Nurse was 0-for-4 from three — the Liberty actually only made four threes all game, with Charles making two of them — but she made up for it by getting into the paint.
Covering A Game Live Is Wild
I live in the Dallas area and was able to get credentials for this game from the Wings, which made it my first time to A) ever cover a sporting event live and B) my first time to get to see the Liberty in person.
It was fun and exciting and terrifying.
If you’ve never attended a professional basketball game, you might not realize how good these players are. All of those “yeah, players don’t miss in warmups” rumors were definitely true, and getting to see Nurse and Charles work together on the floor on entry passes and post moves was such a cool thing to behold.
Another highlight was getting to see Dallas rookie Arike Ogunbowale in person. The race for WNBA Rookie of the Year appears to be coming down to her and Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier. Collier’s a more well-rounded player, but getting to see Ogunbowale play offense in person was incredibly impressive. She’s been inefficient, but she’s also asked to shoulder such a heavy workload on this Wings team. She’s going to be a star in this league.
Getting the chance to talk to Katie Smith, Tina Charles, and Kia Nurse after the game was the thing I was most afraid of and also the thing that I probably most felt like a first timer during. It was easy to fake like I knew what I was doing when I was walking through tunnels and grabbing potatoes in the media room, but coming face-to-face with professional athletes and asking them questions about a game that they’d just lost was something I just wasn’t as prepared for as I thought. Credit to them for taking my stumbling, poorly-worded questions and giving me good answers!
Anyway, go to a WNBA game. The atmosphere was great…or, at least, it was great for the home team, as the Wings fans were incredibly passionate and were ready to go to war for their team.