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Liberty have to ‘respond’ in Game 2

Look to avoid 0-2 series hole at Barclays Center Tuesday

September 26, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A season that was billowing with promise is on the brink of going up in smoke for the New York Liberty if they can’t find a way to get past the Connecticut Sun Tuesday night in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“That was the worst game of the season,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello ceded after Sunday afternoon’s sobering 78-63 Game 1 loss to visiting Connecticut in front of 9,442 deflated fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“We have great players and we’ll respond,” Brondello insisted.

They’ll have to overcome their lowest-scoring game of the season, Associated Press Player of the Year Breanna Stewart’s 7-of-25 shooting performance, including an 0-for-8 effort from 3-point range, and a losing battle along the boards.

“They are such an offensive juggernaut, we had to make things as difficult as possible and I think our team took ownership of that today,” said Connecticut coach Stephanie White.

The Sun (1-0) got 20 points from DeWanna Bonner and 18 out of former Liberty guard Rebecca Allen to open their fifth straight appearance in the best-of-5 semifinals with a win that put the Liberty (0-1) on the brink of going back to Connecticut in an 0-2 hole.

“They were being aggressive. I don’t think we handled it well, we didn’t stay poised and composed,” said Stewart, who finished with a team-high 19 points.

DeWanna Bonner scored a game-high 20 points for Connecticut in a Game 1 win in Downtown Brooklyn Sunday. AP Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Former Sun forward Jonquel Jones had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Sabrina Ionescu added 12 points with a quartet of 3-pointers though she missed the rest of her 10 field-goal attempts.

Connecticut trailed by three points at halftime but used a 16-2 spurt after intermission to go ahead to stay, 53-42.

The Liberty would crawl within five points later in the third quarter, but Allen, who spent her first seven seasons in New York, answered with a 3-pointer and Bonner drilled a jumper to stretch the advantage to 65-55.

“It’s 0-0 when it comes to playoffs. We didn’t think about the regular season,” said Bonner, referring to Connecticut’s four losses to the Liberty during the WNBA’s first-ever 40-game campaign.

“It’s a new season,” she added.

It could be a season-defining game for a Liberty squad that has been on cruise control since late July. New York posted a league-best 16-2 during this torrid stretch before Sunday’s defeat to the battle-tested Sun.

Connecticut would host Game 3 at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night and Game 4, if necessary, on Sunday afternoon.
The Liberty, who haven’t lost consecutive games all year, don’t want to break that trend Tuesday in Game 2.

“Frustrating to drop this one at home,” Stewart admitted. “We’ll bounce back Tuesday.”

Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

Breanna Stewart will try to shake off a rough shooting night and tenacious Sun defenders Tuesday night in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals. AP Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Jones’ double-double in Game 1 was her third in as many playoff contests thus far this postseason. The 2021 WNBA Most Valuable Player as a member of the Sun is averaging 17.7 points and 12.3 boards per game. … Stewart should find out prior to Game 2 if she received her second WNBA MVP award. She also received the honor in 2018 as a member of the Seattle Storm, where she grabbed two WNBA Finals MVPs as well. … New York committed 14 turnovers in Game 1 while forcing only eight by the Sun, who held a 35-30 advantage in rebounding. … Game 2 will be televised on ESPN.

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