New York Liberty Humbled by the Chicago Sky at Home

New York Liberty Humbled by the Chicago Sky at Home

By John Armwood III

Thursday night, the New York Liberty (4-1) took on the scrappy Chicago Sky (2-1) and allowed them to expose some glaring weaknesses, 91-80. Despite the tough loss at home, the Liberty fans still showed up and showed out for their home team. Nearly securing a soldout crowd on a Thursday night is extremely impressive and speaks to how far the WNBA has come. Combined with the return of Chicago Sky head coach and New York Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon, it proved to be a ton of energy and nostalgia that played into the game's dynamic. The Sky came out wanting to win this game for their head coach, and the Liberty wanted to defend their home court and remain undefeated. In the past, these two teams have history and tend to make entertaining battles. 

Chicago Sky Bring New York Liberty Weaknesses to Forefront

In the game, it was no secret that Weatherspoon wanted to be aggressive to put pressure on the Liberty. This method and mentality worked perfectly as former MVP and Liberty enforcer Jonquel Jones got in early foul trouble. Ultimately, drastically affecting the game and how the Liberty were forced to defend. Not to mention, the guards of the Sky found a way to get downhill and attack the Liberty guards who appeared to struggle on the perimeter. 

“We wanted all five on the floor to be aggressive and in attack mode, even if you’re on the bench the mentality is always attack mode,” Weatherspoon explains in the post-game conference. “Of course, we had to take advantage of Jonquel not being on the floor. She’s an incredible basketball player with an inside, outside, on-the-perimeter, off-the-bounce, and midrange. So, it gave us a chance to get a run of her own with her absence.”

 Defensively, the Sky philosophy allowed them to take the Liberty out of their game. Consistently, the Sky managed to run the Liberty off the three-point line, as well as fighting and contesting through screens to minimize the shooting gaps from that mountain of screens. Despite the scoring efforts of Chicago star guard Marina Mabrey leading the Sky with 21 points, seven assists, and six rebounds followed by multiple players in double digits, the biggest takeaway was the defensive effort of the Sky and holding the liberty below their season scoring average (88 points). 

“I feel like it speaks to the players we have on this team, not everybody wants to go out there every night and wants to defend,” Mabrey emphasizes. “It’s not easy, and it's not fun. Therefore, having those personalities that are willing to dig deep and find that strength to keep trying to guard, especially these amazing players in New York. It takes a ton of mental strength, so it speaks to our focus.”

Learning Experience for the Liberty

The Liberty haven’t been met back with that form of aggression all season, however this overall was a learning experience that will help them be better equipped for the next encounter later in the season. The Sky tends to give the Liberty trouble based on their roster and how physically they approach the game. On top of their length, that allows them to dominate the rebounds which ultimately limits the opposing teams' possessions or chances of scoring. 

Also, during the game, this was the most fouls the Liberty were called for which affected the game as well. Getting into early foul trouble forces the Liberty to play timid and utilize the depth of their bench. Liberty superstar forward Breanna Stewart comments on the controversial officiating tonight and how much it affected their gameplay, however being forced to play through it.

"It's not much we can do about it [officiating], I think we're trying to figure out what is verticality and what isn’t,” Stewart states. “Just continuing to play through that, like I said if it was up to me, I’d want to challenge every single call, but you only get one. Making sure we stay composed as a team because getting emotional isn’t going to help us.”

What’s Next for the Liberty?

Saturday afternoon, the New York Liberty will take on the Minnesota Lynx (2-1) on the road at Target Center.

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