Nightmare for the Liberty against the Dream
Chennedy Carter was looking to step out of the shadow of fellow rookie Sabrina Ionescu, who had been the main story entering the Draft as well as leading up to the season. The Dream had been blown out by the Las Vegas Aces in their last game, New York had lost to the Dallas Wings. For Atlanta, the newly acquired Glory Johnson and Courtney Williams were able to play for the first time; the Liberty were without Kia Nurse, who sat out to nurture the ankle injury she sustained on opening night.
Atlanta came out firing on all cylinders, building an early 9–0 lead. The Liberty struggled to get shots to fall or to get shots up in the first place, turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions. With 5:34 on the clock, Betnijah Laney increased the lead to 12–0 with an and-1. At that point, New York had gone 0/5 from the field and already racked up 5 turnovers. Ionescu finally put the Liberty on the scoreboard with an and-1 of her own. The Liberty still missed out on some easy shots; Jocelyn Willoughby blew two open layups. Atlanta threatened to run away with the game, as they extended their lead to 16–3.
NY coach Walt Hopkins subbed in Kylee Shook, who immediately made an impact on both sides of the court: She went 3/3 for 8 points on the offense, collected a couple of rebounds and blocked a shot as well. The Liberty slowly worked their way back in the game, but still gave away too many second chances to the Dream. Courtney Williams had a rough start to her debut, missing her first 3 shot attempts from midrange. Nevertheless, Atlanta held a 6-point lead after 10 minutes of play.
Sabrina Ionescu lead her team back, though, slowly closing the gap and finally taking the lead. The Liberty improved their defensive effort and forced a couple of shot clock violations. They sped up, ran the floor and create easier shots. But when Ionescu tried to push the pace after a rebound, she stepped on Laney’s foot, rolled her ankle and had to be carried off the court by the medical staff. Layshia Clarendon tried to fill the void and took over; she scored 11 points in the first half and dished out 3 assists as well. Rookie guard Jazmine Jones went a perfect 4/4 (2/2 3pt) from the bench to tie the game at 35 apiece. The Dream had built an impressive advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Liberty 23–16, 12 of which came on the offensive glass. Monique Billings grabbed double-digit rebounds, while Laney scored an absurd 19 points in the first half. The Liberty went into halftime with a 2-point lead, though, courtesy of their bench players, who provided 20 of New York’s 43 points.
The Dream had the better start again, going on a 13–0 run. Leaonna Odom finally broke the dryspell with a corner three, 6:30 minutes into the third. Betnijah Laney hit another three to put the Dream up 60–46 and the game slowly out of New York’s reach. The Liberty were able to go on a run of their own, cutting the deficit to 5 before the final quarter.
Carter stayed aggressive, constantly attacking the basket. Atlanta was able to extend their lead once again, but the Liberty refused to give up, lead by their guards, rookie Jones and veteran Clarendon. With under 3 minutes to go, they brought their team within 2. Carter stayed aggressive on both ends of the court, though, going 6/15 for 17 points, but fouling out with 90 seconds left on the clock. Courtney Williams checked back in and fed Elizabeth Williams in the post for an easy 2 to extend the lead to 79–74, before Laney finally put the game away with a putback layup.
In the end, Atlanta got back into the win column, beating the Liberty 84–78 to improve to 2–1. New York on the other hand lost the game and their best player to injury. On the bright side, some of the rookies performed quite well in the #1 pick’s absence. Willoughby recovered from her early misses and put up 14 points (5/10 FG, 2/3 3pt), 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Jones scored an efficient 20 points, while Shook finished the game with 9 points and 4 rebounds. Clarendon had a team-high 16 points on 7/19 shooting (1/6 3pt), along with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. For Atlanta, Elizabeth Williams recorded her third double-double of the season (15 points, 10 rebounds), while Billings collected 15 boards, struggling with her shot, though (2/9 FG).
Partie gegen die Dream wird zum Alptraum für New York
Chennedy Carter wollte im direkten Duell gegen Sabrina Ionescu die Chance ergreifen, aus dem Schatten des #1-Picks zu treten, der die gesamte mediale Aufmerksamkeit im Vorfeld der Draft und der Saison in der #Wubble gewidmet worden war. Die Dream waren in ihrer letzten Partie den Las Vegas Aces chancenlos unterlegen, New York gegen die Dallas Wings verloren. Während Atlanta sich über zwei Debütantinnen, Glory Johnson und Courtney Williams, und die damit verbundene größere Kadertiefe freuen konnten, mussten die Liberty auf Kia Nurse verzichten. Die 24-Jährige schonte ihren Knöchel, an dem sie sich im Auftaktspiel verletzt hatte.
Atlanta kam gut ins Spiel und erspielte sich eine frühe 9:0-Führung. New York hatte Probleme im Abschluss bzw. überhaupt den Abschluss zu finden; drei Possessions in Folge endeten mit einem Turnover. Die exzellent aufgelegte Betnijah Laney baute die Führung mit einem And-1 auf 12:0 aus. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt standen die Liberty bei 0/5 aus dem Feld und 5 Ballverlusten. Ionescu brachte ihr Team schließlich, ebenfalls per And-1, auf die Anzeigetafel. New York ließ in der Folge zu viele einfache Würfe liegen; Jocelyn Willoughby verlegte zweimal freistehend. Atlanta drohte nun davonzuziehen (16:3).
New Yorks junger Coach Walt Hopkins brachte Kylee Shook in die Partie, die unverzüglich einen positiven Einfluss auf das Spielgeschehen hatte: Sie ging 3/3 aus dem Feld für 8 Punkte, schnappte sich 2 Rebounds und blockte zudem einen Wurf. DieLiberty arbeiteten sich Schritt für Schritt zurück ins Spiel, gaben allerdings immer noch zu viele zweite Gelegenheiten her. Courtney Williams erwischte einen kalten Start bei ihrem Debüt, ihre ersten 3 Versuche aus der Mitteldistanz verfehlten allesamt das Ziel. Dennoch konnte Atlanta eine 6-Punkte-Führung behaupten.
Ionescu brachte ihr Team im zweiten Viertel zurück, Possession für Possession, und schließlich gar in Führung. Eine verbesserte Defense resultierte in einigen provozierten shot clock violations und Ballgewinnen, die es New York erlaubten, das Spiel schnell zu machen und zu einfachen Punkten zu kommen. Als Ionescu jedoch abermals versuchte, aufs Gaspedal zu treten, trat sie auf Laneys Fuß und knickte unglücklich weg, so dass sie – auf das medizinische Personal gestützt – das Feld verlassen musste. Layshia Clarendon versuchte, die Lücke zu stopfen und übernahm Verantwortung; sie erzielte in der ersten Halbzeit 11 Punkte und verteilte 3 Assists. Rookie-Guard Jazmine Jones kam von der Bank und hielt sich bei 4 Wurfversuchen schadlos. Mit einem ihrer beiden Dreier glich sie zum 35:35 aus. Die Dream hatten sich an den Brettern einen beeindruckenden Vorteil erarbeitet, besonders die 12 Offensiv-Rebounds hatten den Liberty arg Weh getan. Monique Billings hatte sich an in der Offensive wie in der Defensive 5 Abpraller gesichert, Laney kam auf absurde 19 Punkte. Dennoch lag zur Pause New York mit 2 Punkten in Front. Verantwortlich dafür war die starke Leistung der Bank, auf deren Konto 20 der 43 Punkte gingen.
New York verschlief erneut den Beginn, Atlanta legte einen 13:0-Lauf aufs Parkett. Leaonna Odom konnte nach knapp 3:30 Minuten schließlich einen Dreier für New York verwandeln. Betnijah Laney versenkte jedoch ebenfalls einen Distanzwurf für Atlanta, der die Führung auf 60:46 schraubte und wie eine Vorentscheidung wirkte. Doch die Liberty steckten nicht auf und verkürzten noch vor dem Schlussviertel auf 61:56.
Carter blieb weiterhin angriffslustig und setzte die Defensive permanent unter Druck. Durch einige Freiwürfe von „Hollywood“ konnte Atlanta davonziehen, doch das Guard-Duo aus Rookie Jones und Veteranin Clarendon schlug zurück. Kurz vor dem Ende der Partie trennten die beiden Teams nur noch drei Punkte. Carters aggressive Spielweise (6/15 FG für 17 Punkte) kam ihr in der Verteidigung teuer zu stehen, als sie mit 90 Sekunden auf der Uhr ausfoulte und ihrer Truppe nicht mehr helfen konnte. Courtney Williams kam zurück in die Partie, bediente Elizabeth Williams im Post und die ließ sich diese Gelegenheit nicht entgehen. Die Entscheidung besorgte anschließend die überragende Laney mit einem Putback-Layup.
Schlussendlich verdiente sich Atlanta den Sieg gegen aufopferungsvoll kämpfende Liberty, die nicht nur das Spiel, sondern auch ihre beste Spielerin verloren. Immerhin performten einige der anderen Rookies in Abwesenheit des #1-Picks recht formidabel. Willoughby erholte sich von ihren frühen Fehlwürfe und legte 14 Punkte auf, dazu 3 Rebounds, 3 Steals und 2 Blocks. Jones scorte effiziente 20 Punkte, während Shook auf 9 Punkte und 4 Rebounds kam. Clarendon führte New York mit 16 Zählern an (7/19 FG, 1/6 3pt) und steuerte 4 Rebounds und 5 Assists bei. Für Atlanta legte Elizabeth Williams das dritte Double-Double in Serie auf, während Monique Billings sich 15 Rebounds schnappte, aber mit dem Wurf Probleme hatte (2/9 FG).
Fever go cold in crunchtime against Wings
The young Dallas Wings were able to emerge as winners of a closely contested low-scoring game against the Indiana Fever on Friday. #2 pick Satou Sabally came up clutch for a team, scoring the final points of the ball game and blocking Kelsey Mitchell in crunchtime. The Wings improve to a surprising, yet deserved 2–1 and continue to surprise early on. Indiana’s still waiting for their top pick Lauren Cox to join the action, as well as veteran guard Erica Wheeler.
Indiana had the better start to the game, although both teams didn’t shoot the ball well at all. Astou Ndour had taken and missed two early three-pointers for Dallas, who took 25 shots from behind the arc over the course of the game, making only 3 for an atrocious 12% from downtown. Sabally was aggressive from the get-go, attacking the basket and the offensive glass for a quick 4 points. Tiffany Mitchell and Victoria Vivians knocked down two threes to give the Fever a 13–6 lead midway through the first quarter. Kayla Thornton gave the Wings instant offense from the bench, scoring 7 points and tying the game at 15 apiece. Tyasha Harris converted a layup on a strong drive to the rim to give Dallas a 19–17 lead, as the first period came to a close.
Lead by Julie Allemand, the Fever started pulling ahead in the second quarter. The Belgian international finished the game with 11 assists, constantly trying to set up Indiana’s shooter. She also grabbed four boards and 3 steals. For Dallas, Arike Ogunbowale couldn’t find her rhythm at all, missing her first 5 shot attempts and going 5/22 (1/10 3pt) for the game. The Wings only scored 12 points in the second quarter, while the Fever built a double-digit lead right before halftime. Teaira McCowan, who had been outstanding in Indiana’s win over the Mercury, and Stephanie Mavunga both hit one of their two foul shots to put their team up 43–31 at the intermission.
Midway through the third, Indiana was still up by 12, when Satou Sabally finally came to life and took over for the Wings. She’d already corralled in 9 rebounds at that point, but hadn’t scored since the first quarter. The German international knocked down 6 shots at the free throw line, but Indiana was able to hold on to their lead. Allemand splashed a wide open three for the Fever’s highest lead of the game (61–47) with 3 minutes left in the quarter. Fueled by Sabally’s rebounding and driving, the Wings went on a 10–1 run to cut the deficit to 5 points before the final 10 minutes. The former Oregon forward cleaned up her team mates’ misses to open up second chance opportunities for them and herself. The Fever couldn’t get any shots to fall, going without a field goal for the rest of the period.
Sabally totally took matters into her own hands in the fourth, at times running the pick and roll ballhandler with Bella Alarie, looking for and creating mismatches against the slower McCowan or the smaller Indiana guards. She finished the game with 7 offensive rebounds (17 overall) and 23 points, both career-highs. Dallas was still trailing by 6, though, when Mavunga hit a long two with 4:30 left on the clock, to put the Fever up 71–65. The young Indiana forward also scored her team’s last points of the game, when she put back Vivians’ missed jumper about a minute later. Dallas finally tied the game, when Harris scored a layup on the break. At that time, the Wings had three (!) rookies and a sophomore on the floor. It was also Harris, who gave Dallas their first lead since the beginning of the second quarter, hitting one of two foul shots. The game winning plays came from fellow rookie Sabally, though. First, she defended Kelsey Mitchell, forcing her to take a bad pull-up jumpshot, then she blocked her attempted layup on the next possession. Sabally remained perfect from the line after being fouled with 8.9 seconds on the clock. The Fever were unable to get a good look to tie the game, Tiffany Mitchell’s well-defended three-pointer from the left corner hit front iron and the Wings’ comeback was completed.
Not taking away anything from Dallas, Indiana simply blew this game by rushing a lot of shots and falling into the same patterns of play that had led to their first loss against the Las Vegas Aces. The Wings played good defense at the end of the third and fourth quarter, but the Fever could and should have done better and won this game. Dallas won’t mind, picking up their second win of the season, which had taken them 7 games last year. Indiana’s head coach Marianne Stanley still has plenty of work to do. The addition of Lauren Cox and Erica Wheeler should definitely help, though. Brian Agler on the other hand was rewarded for trusting his young players, leaving them on the floor in crunchtime paid off this time and this experience will only help them grow as a team and individually.
Sabally eiskalt von der Linie gegen die Fever
… Spielbericht folgt in Kürze …
Phoenix‘ big three outplay the Aces
The Phoenix Mercury’s start to the #Wubble season didn’t go as expected, neither for them nor for most experts. For Friday’s game, head coach Sandry Brondello made a change to the starting lineup that would eventually pay off. Sophie Cunningham had an efficient game, offering superstar Diana Taurasi a different kind of offensive weapon to work with. On top of that, Skylar Diggins-Smith played her best game for the Mercury so far. The Aces on the other hand were trailing from the get-go, worked hard to come back, but eventually fell short. Both teams are now 1–2 and certainly aiming for better records as the WNBA campaign progresses.
The Las Vegas Aces were without their starting point guard Lindsay Allen after an inconclusive positive test on CoViD-19 on Thursday. She tested negative on Friday and will be able to return to the team after another negative test. Phoenix was at full strength and got off to great start. Taurasi, who had been unusually quiet and unproductive in the first two games, was very much alive against the Aces. She knocked down two early jumpshots to get herself going and got her team mates involved as well. She worked her magic in the pick and roll with Brittney Griner and found the running Cunningham twice on the break. Taurasi was a lot more aggressive than she had been before and it definitely paid off for her team. For Las Vegas, A’ja Wilson made a couple of buckets in the post. The former #1 pick was struggling a bit with her shot over the course of the game, though, converting only 7 of her 19 attempts for 17 points.
Bria Hartley, the Mercury’s leading scorer, came off the bench again and splashed a three to give her team a 22–11 lead with 2 minutes to go in the first quarter. Sugar Rodgers immediately answered with a three for the Aces only to watch Diggins-Smith drain another one for the Aces. Rodgers gave the Aces, who usually rely on the inside game, a reliable threat from downtown with her performance. She finished with 16 points (4/8 3pt) and 4 assists. Kia Vaughn scored the last points of the first quarter for the Mercury with an and-1 after a foul on a hookshot to give her team a 30–19 lead.
Diggins-Smith was on fire at the beginning of the second, knocking down two more shots from behind the arc to increase Phoenix‘ advantage to 18. In the end, she’d scored 22 points, shooting an insanely efficient 9/11 from the floor (4/5 3pt), while dishing out 5 assists as well. Taurasi found Cunningham on the break once more, her outlet pass was right on the money. Against a tough defensive team, especially in the halfcourt, scoring easy points is essential. Cunningham’s layup put Phoenix up 41–21. The Mercury made 7 of their first 9 tries from downtown. A’ja Wilson was putting in the work in the post and from midrange, trying to counter Phoenix‘ hot shooting and to get her team back into the game. Las Vegas was able to cut the deficit in half, going on a 16–2 run in the final 4:30 minutes of the first half, only down 41–50 after 20 minutes.
And the Aces came back in the second half: Angel McCoughtry tied the game at 56–56 midway through the third, getting a friendly roll on a midrange pull-up jumpshot. The Mercury fought back, though, closing the quarter n an impressive run, getting the lead back up to 13. After some good and patient ball movement Hartley knocked down a corner three with 9.5 seconds on the clock.
The Mercury were able to sustain their double-digit lead despite McCoughtry’s good performance in the fourth. The Aces forward scored a team-high 18 points on 6/13 shooting (1/3 3pt) and continued her good form. Dearica Hamby cut the deficit to 8 with a layup out of the pick and roll, but Phoenix‘ big three combined for the deciding plays in the next possession: Taurasi set up Griner, who blew by Carolyn Swords for an easy deuce. Diggins-Smith stole Swords‘ inbounds pass and scored despite being fouled by the Las Vegas center. After her successful free throw, Phoenix was up 88–75 and the Aces would not be able to threaten the Mercury again.
Phoenix‘ ball movement was absolutely stellar, they had 30 assists on 38 made shots. Their outside scoring was key to their success, 11 of 20 three-pointers found their way through the net. The Aces got outplayed in almost all categories. They especially got punished for their approach of going under Phoenix‘ screens to protect the inside. Furthermore, they weren’t able to contain the Mercury’s big three, who combined for 62 points on the night.
Phoenix‘ Big Three übertrumpfen die Aces
… Spielbericht folgt in Kürze …