Kia Nurse & Bria Hartley

New York Liberty vs. Seattle Storm (7/14/2019): Recap

On Sunday, the New York Liberty’s losing streak reached three games with a 78-69 loss to the Seattle Storm. The final score doesn’t reflect how lopsided most of the game was, as the Liberty managed to get it closer by winning the fourth quarter 26-12.

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Asia Durr missed her second consecutive game with what’s described as a “minor groin strain,” and Kia Nurse was the only Liberty player to score in double figures, finishing with 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Nurse was 3-for-7 from behind the three-point line; the rest of the team went a combined 1-for-9 from deep, with Marine Johannès making the only other three.

It was also another rough shooting performance for Tina Charles, who went just 2-for-15 from the floor, dropping her field goal percentage this season down to 37.2%. That’s a full 10 points lower than last year. Charles has never shot under 40% over the course of a full WNBA season and if this doesn’t start to correct itself soon, it might be time to worry.

Let’s look at some takeaways from this one.

No Asia Durr, again

Asia Durr missed her second straight game with a minor groin strain.

The Liberty haven’t been super forthcoming with this injury, with nothing mentioned before Friday’s game and Durr initially off the injury report for Sunday before the team issued a correction. That’s fueled speculation on Twitter that head coach Katie Smith isn’t playing Durr for some non-injury reason.

Stop. Please.

Durr’s rookie season hasn’t gone smoothly, as she’s struggled at times, but Katie Smith isn’t benching Durr. She’s a young player dealing with an injury and the team is taking precautions with her. It was clear in a game like this that a healthy Durr being on the floor could have made an impact, so to suggest the Liberty are just not playing Durr is asinine. She’s hurt. The team feels comfortable sitting her while she recovers because her injury happens to have occurred right as the team was getting their EuroBasket players back, so you can afford to play it safe with Durr for the time being. She’ll be back in this rotation soon.

Where’s the offense?

I think a lot of people — me included — were expecting this offense to soar with Amanda Zahui B and Bria Hartley back, but that just hasn’t been the case. Zahui B in particular has struggled, going a combined 2-for-10 from the floor in her first two games back with nine points. She’s a combined -31 on the floor over those two games, and the Zahui B who was breaking out before EuroBasket doesn’t seem to be here yet.

And you know what? I’m not worried. Zahui B played a lot for Sweden. She then flew across the world and had to pick back up where she left off with the Liberty. That’s not easy. Bria Hartley’s shooting poorly too. It’s going to take some time. Players having to basically hit the pause button mid-season and fly to Europe to play for a different team in an entirely different scenario is disruptive. It takes you out of rhythm. I’m encouraged by Zahui B coming back and immediately picking up with her newfound shot blocking. I’m not discouraged by a couple of bad shooting nights.

Tina Charles’ struggles scare me much more. With the volume of shots she has, a 2-for-15 shooting night won’t cut it. Things should theoretically be easier Charles with the full roster back, since the defense has more players to account for now, but that hasn’t been the case.

The fourth quarter comeback

The Liberty bench showed a lot of fight in the fourth quarter. Rebecca Allen and Han Xu played all 10 minutes of the period. Marine Johannès played a good chunk of it.

Han was 2-for-4 in the quarter. With 6:11 to go, she got the ball just inside the three-point line, held it for a moment, and then fired up the shot over Courtney Paris. Obviously, in a close game you’re going to wish she was one step back of where she was so the shot would have been a three, but in this context it’s encouraging to see Han continue to develop her range. New York was running a lineup with both her and Zahui B in it, which could be a really interesting one to see more of, since both bigs in that lineup have the ability to stretch the floor offensively. Han’s other make came off a jump ball. Rebecca Allen tips it right to her, and she puts up the hook shot.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was 2-for-2 in the quarter. She’s kind of the odd woman out right now in the front court, but that could change. Charles and Zahui B are your starters. Reshanda Gray is your main backup. Rebecca Allen is the fourth big. Han Xu is your developmental piece. But Raincock-Ekunwe was solid in her minutes, working herself right to the basket and making plays. I don’t think it’s fully settled yet that Gray’s got a firm hold on those backup minutes, as Raincock-Ekunwe actually played more minutes than her in this one.

The Liberty are off until Saturday, when they return home to host the Sparks.