New York Liberty Sends a Message with the Dominant Victory in Home Opener

New York Liberty Sends a Message with the Dominant Victory in Home Opener

By John "Woods" Armwood III 

Saturday evening, the New York Liberty (3-0) defended their home court against Indiana Fever (0-3) led by the rookie phenom Caitlin Clark. Despite the tough loss at home last year in the WNBA Finals, the Liberty picked up where they left off by having a sold-out crowd ina dominant performance in their home opener, 91-80. The support for Liberty continues to grow and it only makes for an even more exciting product moving forward. Not to mention, the hype around Clark and the Fever made this game that much more exciting. The friendly and healthy rivalry appears to continue among Clark and recognized superstars around the league, ultimately which will only increase viewership and competition. 

“This arena is amazing. It’ll be fun for me to go around to all the new WNBA arenas and kind of check off the box,” Clark said. “This is certainly one that’s up there. I know the crowd will be incredible tonight, so just enjoy it.”

The New York Liberty Establish Their Identity 

At the start of the game, it was clear that the Liberty wanted to attack and begin the game with the lead, rather than playing from behind. Oftentimes, last season, the Liberty was so immensely talented it overshadowed their slow starts. That said, they understood the magnitude of who they were playing and how quickly things could get out of hand if Clark wasn’t contained or outscored throughout the game. This game, it took a team effort, however the Liberty managed to not only be aggressive offensively, scoring seven out of nine three-pointers in the opening quarter, but also defensively. New York Liberty star forward Breanna Stewart led the Liberty with 24 points on 7-14 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Stewart shot a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line in the win as well. 

“We were close last year but we're even closer this year and just really appreciating that and enjoying it,” Stewart states. “Last year things got a little bit crazy for everyone coming here that was new and now we're settled and we know what we're trying to do on and off the court.”

It appeared that former MVP Jonquel Jones played aggressively and had a point to prove playing against a very talented but inexperienced Aliyah Boston. Jonquel Jones posted a double-double for the second consecutive game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jones also tied her Liberty career-high with five assists and shot 5-6 from the field while making both of her two three-point attempts against Indiana. Boston was essentially neutralized by physicality and just pure skill. Jones displayed her versatility and how dominant of a player she can be. Her dominance opened up several of her teammates' offensive games and only helped establish more rhythm in the offense. 

“I think in the first two games we have shot the ball particularly well, but our team is built off of a lot of shooters,” New York Liberty star guard Sabrina Ionescu explains. “Whether it’s the bigs or guards everyone can shoot the ball, so we continue to believe in that whether the ball’s going in or not. Tonight, obviously understanding it’s the home opener and the ball was going in from deep, ultimately opens up everything down low as well.”

Caitlin Clark’s Impact on the WNBA

It’s no secret, that there’s been an astronomical amount of pressure on Clark since she’s entered the WNBA. In the first two games of her career, Clark has struggled to adjust, yet in New York, she managed to record 22 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Appearing to get out of her shooting strut, this level of confidence can propel her to the standard many hold her to moving forward.

“Honestly, I never feel like in a shooting funk, they either go in or they don't,” Clark emphasizes. “I don’t lose my confidence and I never thought that until you said it, so thanks. It’s always good to see the ball go in the whole, especially early in the game as a scorer. Naturally, it just gives you a boost of confidence as a scorer, but I think I was just more active. For example, I was cutting harder, setting up screens harder, a few backdoor cuts for a layup. Overall, just playing with better pace and that’s more of a learning thing.”

Clark is still developing into a player that some believe her to be, that said some veteran players offer her grace. Despite her potential, the pressure can be overwhelming and they’re applauding the eyes she’s brought to the WNBA as well as all she’s done for the league. Before the start of the season, they’re been two expansion teams named and charter flights were rewarded to multiple teams around the league. 

“I think the media needs to give her a little bit of grace and time to develop into a player,” Jones said of Clark. “She’s learning every game she’s out there, and obviously her impact on this league is gonna be tremendous and only grow as she matures.

“But just give her some time, man,”  Jones continues.

When Stewart was asked about Clark’s impact and how the league has drastically she changed since she arrived in the WNBA, she stated:

"And, I think that's what's the most important thing behind it. … But making sure that there's growth. ... When I first started in the league, some teams weren't even making revenue. ... It's a long time coming."

What’s Next for the Liberty?

Monday evening, the Liberty will take on the Seattle Storm (1-2) led by Skylar Diggins at home in the Barclays.

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