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Liberty stars held to single digits by phenomenal Sky defense

The New York Liberty suffered a 33-point loss to the Chicago Sky Wednesday night.

New York Liberty v Chicago Sky
Betnijah Laney’s shot is heavily contested.

Everything went wrong for the New York Liberty Wednesday night at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The Sky set their franchise record for margin of victory in an 83-50 win that saw each member of New York’s big three held to single-digit scoring.

Sabrina Ionescu struggled the most, scoring just two points after dropping 25 in the season opener. She attempted just five field goals, missing all of them.

Laney’s first shot attempt missed the rim and hit all backboard. Maybe she was feeling a little off having missed the first game of the season with a knee injury. Her next shot was just a little unlucky because it was a good 3-point attempt that rattled in and out. But no such excuse when she missed a reverse layup on her third shot attempt.

Laney would finish with eight points (4-of-12 from the field; 0-of-2 from three). One bright spot for her was her six assists, which tied Courtney Vandersloot for the game high. Natasha Howard (4-of-13 from field; 0-of-2 from three) also had eight points. Han Xu was the only member of the Liberty in double figures with 10 points. The team’s big three combined to go 0-of-6 from downtown and the team as a whole was 2-of-15 (13.3 percent). The Liberty actually matched the Sky with 32 points in the paint, but made eight less threes.

New York Liberty v Chicago Sky
Han Xu (jersey #21)

Candace Parker and Emma Meesseman were phenomenal on defense for Chicago. Though they are both forwards, they frequently showed on the perimeter and disrupted Ionescu.

“I think their aggressiveness (made it difficult),” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said. “Their hedging, their hedge switching and obviously their length bothered us, they rotated well. We missed a lot of shots and then we got a little hesitant and it kind of played into it all. But Chicago, obviously they were ready to play and we didn't play anywhere (near) where we needed to play.”

Overall, the Liberty lacked the spark they showed against Connecticut. I truly feel like the way they played against the Sun was the real them. They have the weapons to be a good WNBA team. But Laney was simply not her 2021 self on Wednesday, lacking the aura of “I’m going to put this team on my back and my confidence is going to win us games” that surrounded her last year. And Ionescu simply was not her opening day self.

The Liberty didn’t have any big runs and things just got progressively worse as the game went on. They allowed the game’s leading scorer, Dana Evans, to pile on the points with two of her three triples coming in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach.

“I just (told the team) we’ve got to stay with it,” Brondello said. “We’ve got to reflect individually and collectively (on) why we played so poorly. ... We gotta keep growing. We’re gonna have our highs and lows, I always knew that. This league is really really strong and we’re still getting used to playing with each other and a lot of players hadn’t played. But we’re gonna have to find a way to dig a little bit deeper. I think we went away from our discipline, which has been really effective for us, and our grittiness, which was effective for us.”