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Liberty opponents keeping up with Jones

Former MVP slowed down during two-game slide

May 28, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty went from their best start in 17 years to right where they were last year after six games following their first back-to-back losses of this much-anticipated campaign.

Power forward Jonquel Jones’ recent lack of production has had a lot to do with New York’s woes.

After averaging a double-double in points and rebounds during the Liberty’s first 4-0 start since 1997, Jones’ numbers have dipped precipitously during this two-game slide, including Saturday’s ugly 84-67 loss in Minnesota (4-1).

The former 2021 WNBA Most Valuable Player as a member of the Connecticut Sun was held to a season-low four points on 1-of-5 shooting to go with six rebounds, a blocked shot and three of New York’s 18 turnovers in 28 foul trouble-plagued minutes.

Jones was hung with five fouls for the second straight game after amassing that total in last Thursday night’s 90-81 defeat to Chicago at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

The 6-foot-6 eight-year veteran had eight points, four boards, one assist and a season-high five turnovers against the Sky as New York was unable to match its 5-0 start from ’07.

Through her first four games, Jones looked like the dynamo that helped carry the Liberty (4-2) to the brink of their first-ever WNBA title last fall.

She averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 caroms during New York’s hot start with eight turnovers, matching her total through the last two losses.

Liberty coach Sandy Brondello is blessed with a starting five featuring reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, All-Star Sabrina Ionescu, veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot and forward Betnijah Laney-Hamilton.

But Jones’ recent lack of production hasn’t just hurt New York in the box score, it has helped knock it into fourth in the league standings behind unbeaten Connecticut, the Lynx and back-to-back reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas.

“We need JJ. She’s a key piece of what we’re trying to do,” Brondello insisted after New York fell in Minnesota Saturday afternoon.

“There were three people around her every time she caught it. I thought Minnesota’s defense was extremely good.”

Jones did go 4-of-8 from the field vs. Chicago, but was unable to show off her full arsenal on both ends of the floor due to the onset of fouls as the Sky and Lynx forced the action along the interior.

“Every one is going to have a bad day here or there aren’t they?” Brondello pondered after her team’s initial loss of the year. “It’s just making sure you don’t have two bad days in a row.”

The George Washington University showed an uncanny touch from long range during the season opener in Washington, D.C.

She drained half of her eight shots from beyond the arc against the Mystics and was 7-for-16 on long-range attempts when the Liberty were undefeated.

However, Jones has misfired on all four of her 3-point tries since.

“We have to look at how do we get her more open looks and get her more into the game,” Brondello noted.

Jones will get her next chance to shake off this mini-slump Wednesday night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush when the Liberty open a three-game homestand vs. Phoenix.

And it won’t just be Jones who is held accountable if New York can’t avoid its first three-game slide since a five-game skid in July 2022.

“Both teams have really tried to blow up our actions,” noted Stewart, who put up her second straight double-double in defeat Saturday with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“We have two practice days to get it back together for three home games next week,” she added.

Brondello concurred.

“Everybody has got to look in the mirror and ask, ‘How can I do better?'”

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Following last Thursday night’s loss to Chicago at Barclays, Sky coach and former Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon, who spent seven years as a player for New York, showed her love for Brooklyn. “I know those fans in there,” Weatherspoon said. “I know them, I know a lot of the faces. There was a connection. … There’s a lot of love that we have for each other and I would lead by saying how much I love them and appreciate them and nothing will ever change that. Nothing.” … Following a slow start, Vandersloot has accumulated 22 points and 13 assists in her last two contests. The future Hall of Famer and reigning NBA assists leader from a season ago only had 19 points and 13 assists during New York’s 4-0 start and was held scoreless vs. Seattle on May 20. … After hosting the Mercury at Barclays on Wednesday, New York will welcome Washington here Friday before Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever come back to Brooklyn on Sunday. The Liberty swept a two-game set from the rookie phenom and her teammates from May 16-18.

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