Alexa FilippoESPN4 minutes to read
Assigned to a “super team” heading into the 2023 WNBA season, the The New York Liberty showed they’re still in business after their season-opening 80-64 loss to the host Washington Mystics on Friday night.
The 16-point defeat would be the largest loss in a season opener by an eventual WNBA champion, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. But advocate Courtney Vandersloot said Liberty is nowhere near “a panicked state”.
“You have to pile it up,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “I wish we had a little longer camp with our full squad… We can learn a lot from this. The team with the most chemistry definitely won tonight. We weren’t very good, and they were very good.”
In fact, New York seemed like a team with many new players still getting ready to get into a basketball groove, while DC seemed like a unit that had played together for years. After all, four out of the five starters were part of her title-winning run in 2019.
“That was a big lesson for us,” said Vandersloot. “What a big test for us to start the season and play a team like this that really clicked on all cylinders tonight.”
In Brooklyn, offseason additions Brenna Stewart, Jonquil Jones, and Vandersloot saw limited action in training camp, as they took to the full training grounds for the first time this week. Jones, who requested a trade to New York in January, is recovering from a foot injury, while Stewart, who signed with Liberty in free agency, rested parts of the off-season camp in Turkey. Vandersloot, who was also a free agent, lost time after suffering a concussion early in camp.
Jones and Vandersloot were both in the minute restrictions on Friday, seeing the floor for 19 and 27 minutes, respectively.
The lack of chemistry and rust showed up on Friday, as the Liberty shot 34% from the field compared to 45.7% by the Mystics. They also went 7-for-31 from 3-point range and committed 22 turnovers. Capitalizing on New York’s mistakes, Washington dominated the open floor with 16 fast break points.
“At the end of the day, the more chemistry we build, the more understanding we have about our offense and the situations we want to put each of us in, that will take care of itself,” said Sabrina Ionescu. . “It starts with me and Courtney as captain and taking ownership of the ball and holding everyone accountable. We’ve forced it a little bit.”
Former top seed and former draft pick Ionescu leads all scorers with 18 points, while Stewart and Petnya Lani combined have 22 points.
Team Liberty hopes to iron out the flaw before their Sunday home opener at 2 p.m
“We got good shots,” Ionescu said. “We’ve got footage that we know we’re going to do, and we’re going to build that up and deliver it on Sunday.”
Liberty’s growing pains aside, the performance was a statement to the Mystics that they’re not one to forget when talking about championship contenders.
“You can keep sleeping,” said Natasha Cloud, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. “We’re confident in what we have in this locker room. You can keep talking about superhero teams, but we know who we are and we know what we bring every night. … We’re a selfless team that really enjoys being around each other. When you talk about putting together a team Championship, that is exactly it.”
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