New York, NY — A thundercloud seemed to loom over Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for the New York Liberty as the Seattle Storm rolled in, bringing a downpour of determination and skill to clench a 102-78 win.
After suffering two previous losses to the Liberty this season, the Storm was, without a doubt, chomping at the bit to show New York that they could bring the heat and set the court on fire- and that is exactly what they did.
Head Coach Jenny Boucek provided that sense of urgency to the team by stating that, “Every game is big this time of year. Since we’ve been back from the break, we’ve been in playoff mode. Every game matters, and we are fighting to get in, and fighting to get better every game.
We don’t want to have any regrets. I think this team is really enjoying playing with each other, and we don’t want the season to end.”
It was crystal clear that the Storm heeded her advice, as they played with an undeniable amount of grit and willpower, leaving everything on the court. They were led by the unstoppable Jewell Lloyd and rookie, Breanna Stewart, scoring 25 and 23 of the 102 points, respectively.
Even with the reputation of being a poor rebounding team, by the end of the third quarter, Seattle completely dictated the style of the game and gave the Liberty no chance for redemption.
By the fourth quarter, New York had no choice other than to simply weather the “Storm.”
So what went wrong for the Liberty?
Unfortunately, the Liberty felt the sting of having three of their players missing for the evening- Kiah Stokes, Tanisha Wright, and Shoni Schimmel. With all three players on the bench, New York proved utterly defenseless against the Storm’s power trio of Stewart, Lloyd, and Crystal Langhorne, who rounded out the evening with 21 points.
However, no spectator could claim that the Liberty’s miserable loss was caused by a lack of effort. Without Stokes, Wright, and Schimmel on the court, Tina Charles did her best to carry her team.
Charles carried her team on her back through the treacherous four quarters, scoring 22 of their 78 points. Yet, a team is only as strong as their weakest link, and New York’s chain of communication and proactivity indeed was broken. In fact, the Liberty, who has only been outscored in 6 out of 29 games in points in the paint, was outscored by 44-30 points on Wednesday night.
“I think they played their game because we let them,” Charles stated after the Liberty’s weak performance. “We dictate how things go out on and off the court, and we did not do that tonight. With many teams, we can say our defense is our strong suit, but we did not do that tonight.
“Seattle players got comfortable, and they gained momentum.”
What would’ve been Seattle’s eighth straight loss to New York, ended as a well-deserved victory as they continue to work to secure a spot in the playoffs. What was once a team not expected to make it to the postseason, they are currently in seventh place, with an outside shot at #6 seed.
And it’s because of their fight.
The Liberty, on the other hand, was left licking their wounds and rebuilding the morale that was destroyed in the wake of the Storm.
However, Coach Bill Laimbeer optimistically viewed the loss as motivation to keep making progress: “Come Friday, [Liberty vs. Connecticut Sun] I will say to throw this one away. We’ll learn from it. Our defensive performance was not up to our normal standards and that is what we have to work on.”