Game Preview: Liberty vs. Storm

By Ros Gold-Onwude

The New York Liberty (4-9) takes on the Seattle Storm (6-7) this Saturday, June 30th, at 4pm at the Prudential Center. The Liberty are looking for their first win against a Western Conference opponent. The game will be available on WNBA LiveAccess.

This Saturday is Maddie the mascotís Sweet 16 celebration presented by Kia. Come out and enjoy a special keychain giveaway for all fans, guest appearances from Maddieís mascot friends and a special birthday cake celebration, featuring a cake made by the CAKE BOSS. Ticket information can be found here.

The Liberty are coming off of a 74-64 home loss to the Atlanta Dream. The Dream was led by 23 points from Angel McCoughtry, who returned to the court after missing two games due to a sprained knee. New York held a 2-point lead at half time but were stunted in the second half when their offense sputtered. The Liberty could not overcome 26 turnovers despite double-digit performances from Cappie Pondexter, DeMya Walker, Leilani Mitchell, and Kara Braxton. Mitchell shot 5-6 from three and Braxton had one of her best games of the season with a 14-point, 13 rebound double-double. Pondexter fouled out late in the 4th.

The Storm are on a roll. They are on a 5-game win streak and are the only team to have beaten the defending champions, the Minnesota Lynx, so far this season. After a rough 1-7 start to the season, their big Minnesota win snowballed into a momentum-filled run in which super star and NY native Sue Bird has found her scoring touch. Birdís recent reemergence this season has been key to the teamís success. Seattle is 4-0 in games Bird scores 20 or more points.

Seattle is coming off of a 79-71 road win against the Washington Mystics. Sue Bird scored 25 points while Ann Wauters added 14 points and 7 rebounds. Wauters was aggressive out of the pick & roll and moved to gaps around the rim where Sue Bird could find her. All things good for the Storm go through Sue Birdís hands. As the game heated up in the 2nd half, Sue Bird looked to score off of the pick and roll. When coming off of the screen-on-ball, Bird does not need many (or any) extra dribbles to create space and pop a pull-up jump shot. She scored 18 of her 25 points in the 2nd half to seal the win.

New York struggles with maintaining momentum, particularly on offense. The Liberty must find consistent contributions not only over the course of games during the season but also over the course of quarters during the game. For example: In the June 24th Atlanta game, the Liberty essentially lost the game in the 3rd quarter when the Dream out-scored the Liberty 25 to 10 in that one quarter alone.

Fortunately for the Liberty, the Storm are not a high scoring offense only averaging 69.5 points per game. It is also easy to point out where the offense that does exist is coming from: Sue Bird. Many of the plays are designed for Bird to dribble off of an on ball screen and make reads. Sue Bird is a long time all star and will undoubtedly make great plays, however, the goal should be to make it as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for her. The person defending Bird will have to go over the top of the screen because Bird can shoot from behind the screen if there is no one guarding her. Some might even suggest trapping Bird out of the Pick and roll, however, that would mean for quick rotations and heightened awareness for the rest of the Liberty defense.

The Liberty played a close game with the Atlanta Dream last Sunday but unfortunately gave away 31 points off of 26 turnovers. With the Liberty being a team that struggles for offense at times, every single possession matters.