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Liberty looking to ‘wake up’ vs. Lynx

Brondello wants 'Superteam' to learn from Sunday's letdown

June 6, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty were a half away from winning their fifth consecutive game and fourth in a row on the “Big Three” reunion tour Sunday afternoon.

Then, according to head coach Sandy Brondello, they fell asleep in front of 7,225 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center,

“Hopefully this is a wake-up,” Brondello said after New York squandered a 19-point, second-half lead en route to a sobering 86-82 loss to the visiting Chicago Sky on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

The Liberty (4-2) who had knocked off the first three legs of what All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionescu jokingly referred to as a “revenge tour”, couldn’t quite close out the Sky (4-3), who they had defeated in the Windy City two nights earlier.

New York breezed past Connecticut here on May 27, earning a win against former Sun forward Jonquel Jones’ former teammates.

They watched Eastern Conference Player of the Month Breanna Stewart put up 25 points in a victory over her former Seattle Storm teammates in the Emerald City on May 30.

Courtney Vanderpool, who spent her first 12 WNBA seasons in Chicago before signing here along with Stewart this past offseason, got the best of the Sky in a 77-76 thriller Friday night.

Up 17 points at intermission Sunday and holding a 49-30 advantage with 9:30 to go in the third quarter, the Liberty watched their bid to continue a season-high winning streak end as the Sky went in front to stay on Courtney Williams 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining.

New York point guard Courtney Vandersloot was a half away from finishing off a two-game sweep against her former Chicago teammates Sunday in Downtown Brookyn. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

Williams scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, when Chicago turned a six-point deficit into its first win in three games.

Stewart finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Vandersloot added 18 and 10 assists for New York, which drew some ire from Brondello, who has been adamant since the preseason that her team still has a lot of growing up to do as a unit despite its undisputed infusion of star power.

Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP, Stewart, who came to Brooklyn with two league titles and an MVP, and Vandersloot, the league’s all-time assists leader, were brought here to deliver our borough its first pro sports title since 1955.

Though the dynamic trio has enjoyed its share of instant success, the WNBA’s first-ever 40-game regular season promises to present its share of challenges, especially with the Liberty touted as a “Superteam” in the preseason.

Brondello wants her team to close out opponents it has down, especially those visiting Brooklyn, where the Liberty are drawing bigger crowds during this season of great expectations.

“Some players need to wake up a little bit more. We went away from what worked for us,” she noted following a loss that initially looked like a cakewalk when the Liberty opened on a 13-0 burst.

“Our shot profile was terrible,” Brondello added. “We don’t find ways to get [Stewart] touches. We just didn’t play tough enough. … So we’ve got to use it as a learning opportunity now.”

That opportunity will come here Wednesday night, when the Liberty host the Minnesota Lynx (1-6), who opened the season with six straight losses before Saturday’s 80-78 win in Washington, D.C.

New York, which hadn’t lost since a season-opening defeat in our nation’s capital to the Mystics, managed less than 20 points in each of the final two quarters after pulling away with 29 in the second period.

“Disappointing, but the film won’t lie,” said Brondello, who was ready to get her ladies back on the Barclays practice floor and remind them that they can’t let down when they have an opponent on the ropes.

Jonquel Jones and the Liberty will try to start a new winning streak Wednesday night vs. the visiting Minnesota Lynx. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Jones had nine points, six rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes during Sunday’s matinee while Ionescu struggled through her worst performance of the year. The two-time Wooden Award winner finished with four points on 2-of-9 shooting, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Ionescu also committed four of New York’s 16 turnovers, finishing with a team-worst -14 rating. … After hosting the Lynx Wednesday, the Liberty will visit Atlanta on Friday. New York will open a three-game homestand vs. Dallas on Sunday.

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