Sunday evening, the New York Liberty (1-1) displayed a dominant performance against the very youthful Indiana Fever (0-2) on their home court, 90-73. Not only was the Barclays Center sold out for the Liberty home debut, but Liberty forward Breanna Stewart broke the franchise scoring record while also scoring her own career high (45 points). The atmosphere in the building was just electric and the Liberty continued to fuel off the energy as the game progressed.
Early in the game, it appeared that the Liberty wanted to be more aggressive and set the tone instead of allowing the Fever to establish any momentum. It began with Liberty center Jonquel Jones establishing her paint presence and dominating her matchup with promising rookie Aliyah Boston. Jones’ dominating performance in the paint combined with Stewart’s aggression on offense and efficient scoring helped give the Liberty a double-digit lead heading into the second quarter, 35-14.
“We have the best offensive team in the league, but tonight it started with our defense,” Liberty star point guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “Tonight, when Stewie’s shooting like that it opens up the floor for everyone.”
“We look to continue to build on this, but this is the standard and we're holding ourselves to it.” she continued.
Sabrina Ionescu’s Impact on the Game
In the second quarter, Jones proved to be far superior and more experienced than Boston. It appeared the game plan was to neutralize Boston as much as possible to allow second-chance opportunities and easier lanes to drive the ball. Not to mention, Stewart’s onslaught continued and even opened opportunities for others to feed off the momentum. Ionescu proved to be extremely effective with the ball although she wasn’t scoring at a high clip. She nearly ended the game with a triple-double, however she fell just two assists and rebounds away.
“Tonight, she almost had a triple-double that’s pretty special,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello emphasized. “Any given night, Stewie had 45 today but that can easily be Sabrina next game. I think that's a luxury we have being able to take great shots with every possession we have.
“…Sabrina’s of the smartest players I know and I think she facilitated extremely well and she’ll get her shots. It’s a team effort and always will be,” Brondello continued.
The @nyliberty and @WNBA are rapidly changing right before our very eyes !
I’m just proud to say I’m apart of it. The stadium was sold out in the @nyliberty home opener and the atmosphere couldn’t of been anymore electric pic.twitter.com/YLwPKyLn0E
— John “Woods” Armwood III (@J_Armwood908) May 23, 2023
Positives to Build off for the New York Liberty
Although the first game didn’t go as planned for the Liberty, they managed to right that wrong in their home opener. They established low post presence, while they also shot efficiently and effectively from the perimeter. The defense was able to cause numerous turnovers and neutralize the Fevers' key players.
Most importantly, the performance Sunday evening was a preview of what fans can expect for the rest of the 2023 season. Despite the dominant win, the crowd were involved and allowed the Liberty to build and feed off their momentum and energy was huge for the sport let alone the Liberty. Women’s sports are rapidly growing in audience and they’re deserving of this type of recognition. Additionally, performances like Stewart’s will naturally draw audiences interest and help grow the sport as a whole.
“It was really important I performed like this in my debut because I want people to be here and I want them to come back with more,” Stewart said. “I want more of everything for the sport. As a female athletes, we need to continue to get recognized.”
Ultimately, the Liberty looks very promising and once they establish chemistry the potential is limitless for this experienced team. That said, several coaches and players emphasized there is more to work on and improve on moving forward. Yet, they’re satisfied with the victory and look to build upon this moving forward.
“We executed the scout well, however there are areas we can still improve on,” Brondello emphasized.
Next Saturday on May 27th, the Liberty are taking on the Connecticut Suns at home. Both teams have talented rosters and can potentially be a preview of a key matchup later in the season.