NYL Weekly: New York Heads into the Tough Part of the Schedule

After a 1-1 week that saw the team lose to a hot Dream squad, the Liberty get to face…oh, no, the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun.

On paper, the past week should have gone really well for the New York Liberty. Games against the Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream? Two teams that were expected before the season to wind up in the lottery?

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In reality, things went…fine. The Libs went 1-1, with the game against a one-win Dallas team being a little close for comfort and the game against Atlanta going into overtime, with a suddenly-hot Dream group winning their fourth game in a row.

The Liberty now sit at 5-2 on the season. They’re firmly in the hunt to be a playoff team and Betnijah Laney is an MVP candidate, while Michaela Onyenwere seems to be THE candidate for Rookie of the Year:

See, this totally non-biased poll of my Twitter followers confirms it!

Recap

The Liberty had to play a back-to-back

Because the Brooklyn Nets were playing a home playoff game this week, the Liberty schedule had to be adjusted, which meant the team had to play a back-to-back. To make it worse, the front end took place in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, so they had to hop a flight to host Dallas at home on Monday night.

Considering the WNBA made sure to not schedule any back-to-backs in 2021, it seems like a bit of a disadvantage to the Liberty to have to adjust their schedule like that, doesn’t it? Would the Nets change a regular season home date to make room for the Liberty playoff game?

But I digress. Let’s talk about the game.

New York beat the Dallas Wings 88-81. Betnijah Laney scored 20-plus points for the sixth game in a row. DiDi Richards got a lot of playing time and provided a big energy boost, diving for loose balls and producing this great photo from our site owner, Joe Peng:

Sabrina Ionescu had just six official field goal attempts in that game, but New York still won because…well, because Laney’s their best player! And she did what she’s been doing all year, which was play really well!

Dallas played each of their starters over 30 minutes in the loss, by the way. I’ve had some, uhh, questions about their rotation this season.

This was also the game that saw Natasha Howard go down with a knee injury that will keep her out 4-6 weeks.

Related Reading: Geoff Magliocchetti on how the Liberty can weather the Howard injury.

New York got Courtney Williamsed

The Liberty could have kept the winning streak going on Saturday, but then Courtney Williams did this:

I wrote the recap and a big part of that recap was a break down of the poor defense on that play, so give that a glance if you want to relive that game-winner from Williams.

Otherwise, the big story of that game was how Michaela Onyenwere took complete command of the ROY race. She scored a career-high 29 points in the win. Meanwhile, Laney move that streak of 20-point games to seven.

How does that compare to other players at the start of the season? Glad you asked, because Across The Timeline has your answer:

This Week

  • Thursday, June 3: Liberty vs Las Vegas Aces (5-2), 7 p.m. ET, YES/League Pass
  • Saturday, June 5: Liberty @ Connecticut Sun (6-2), 7 p.m. ET, YeS/NESN/League Pass

Just two games on the schedule this week for the Liberty, but they’re tough ones: a home contest against the Aces and a road contest against Connecticut.

Those two games being so close together against teams with a combined record of 11-4 is probably scary for Liberty fans. Sorry to the Libs fans reading this, but my job isn’t to assuage those fears.

New York sans Natasha Howard is about to face the Aces, who have Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson up front, and then after that they face the Sun, who have Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones.

This is going to be a big test for the Liberty frontcourt. Can the combination of Kylee Shook and Kiah Stokes at the five slow those bigs down? Do we even want to watch Kylee Shook try to stop Liz Cambage in the post?

But New York can play fast, which could trouble a team like the Aces who don’t have a lot of backcourt depth right now. If the Liberty can get out in transition and make some things happen that way, there’s a chance. It won’t be easy at all, but for the Liberty to really show they’re on the path to contention, they have to prove they can win—or even at least be competitive—in games where the opponent has such a clear advantage at a certain position.

Photos of the Week

For Liberty home games, Nets Republic has photo credentials. So, I though I’d share some of Joe Peng’s best photos from this week’s home games here.

Here’s Natasha Howard blocking Kayla Thornton against the Wings:

Lib vs Wings 5-24-21

And here’s Courtney Williams with full Courtney Williams confidence from the game on Saturday:

Lib vs Atlanta 5-29-21

Just a quick shout out to Joe for taking some of the best game photos of anyone in WNBA media.