The New York Liberty have been without arguably their best player in Betnijah Laney over their past two losses and both have been close. So while their recorded has slipped to 1-6, perhaps there are signs of hope knowing that the team is competing and will eventually get Laney back.
However, the Liberty couldn’t have been happy Friday night when they were left staring at 18 free throw attempts surrendered to Breanna Stewart alone and 21 turnovers in a 79-71 overtime loss to the Seattle Storm.
In addition to Laney, New York was missing Jocelyn Willoughby, DiDi Richards and Lorela Cubaj. But the Storm were missing Sue Bird, Mercedes Russell, Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot.
“They’re down players, we’re down players, but they executed better when they needed to cuz they've got really good players,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. “And we just kept fouling Stewie and didn't execute what we wanted to. I thought we made progress, not the first half, but the second half was good. Finally got some pace, moving it and attacking it and communication.”
New York was down 10 at halftime and had scored 24 points over the first two frames, but exploded for 27 points in the third before eventually taking the lead late in the fourth.
At the postgame press conference, Sami Whitcomb was asked about the discussions that led to an improvement in the third quarter.
“One of them was just recognizing that we’d actually held them to 34 points,” she said. “You know, they’re a very good offensive team. So I think it was a reality check. We hadn’t played well, but it was a 10 point game, they had scored 34 points. We had turned the ball over 13 times and somehow we were still in it. So I think it was just acknowledging that and not getting too down. And then understanding that it was going to continue to be a battle and we just had to come out and fight and be a bit tougher and a bit more poised. And I thought we did a good job of that. And then obviously I think we just didn’t execute when we needed to down the stretch and we fouled too much.”
Natasha Howard followed up 23 points and six rebounds with 19 and nine on Friday and Han Xu was good for 12 and eight — her fourth double-figure scoring game in a row and a career high in both categories.
“Han’s doing really good for us,” Brondello said. “There’s times where we need to put the ball more in her hand. In post ups or out of pick and rolls where she’s getting to the rim.”
Whitcomb nearly had a triple-double with eight points, eight rebounds and a game-high eight assists. She is tied for eighth in the league with 4.9 helpers per game.
Rebecca Allen added 11 points, seven boards, three assists and three blocks in defeat.
Howard, Whitcomb and Stefanie Dolson all fouled out. Seattle attempted 27 free throws as a team.