Sunday Night Basketball: Liberty takes on the Storm in Seattle

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A full set is required. After a turbulent first half, the New York Liberty fought back to send the game into overtime on Friday night, but the Seattle Storm had enough to claim the win and hand the Libs their sixth straight loss.

Where to watch the game

YES Network is the place to be. Board earlier than the last game so we start the party after 6 p.m.

injuries

No Betnijah Laney, Didi Richards, Jocelyn Willoughby or Lorela Cubaj for the Liberty.

Sue Bird, Ezi Magbegor, Mercedes Russell and Stephanie Talbot are out for the Storm.

The game

Sandy Brondello has pointed this out all season, but the team needs to be better at handling the ball. The Libs spat it 24 times on Friday night and the Storm scored 29 points on those turnovers. Turnovers hurt even more when you factor in that Liberty held the Storm to just 34.7% shooting from the field and 29.2% from three-pointers. It’s hard to believe the Storm will shoot so badly again, so the Liberty will have to make sure they plan a cleaner, more disciplined game if they want to win.

The big perimeter mission for the Liberty will try to slow down Jewell Loyd. It was a team approach as the Libs threw a variety of defenders at him en route to a 7-22 night from the field. It will take another big team effort to keep her at bay, and Rebecca Allen will play a big part in Liberty’s chances tonight. Allen’s shot wasn’t there, but she was huge in the clutch as she hit two huge baskets to help push the game into overtime.

The Liberty finally won the rebound battle and they’re going to have to do it more often. You can’t control the pace if you’re always getting the ball out from under your basket and you’re unable to complete possessions on defense. It was a total team effort for the Liberty and it’s something they need to keep doing if they want to be successful.

Han Xu grabbed eight rebounds off the bench, and the young big will get even more reps tonight. She’s been a great scoring option off the bench and her touch around the edge is quite deft for a player with her level of experience. We won’t see her take on Magbegor, so hopefully we’ll get her when the Storm come to Brooklyn later this summer.

With the team shorthanded, the Storm made another tough signing. Saturday afternoon they picked up Kaela Davis and she will be available for this one.

We need more Sabrina Ionescu. Sab hasn’t shot more than 40 percent from the field since the May 13 game against the Indiana Fever, and that’s not going to cut it. She has the dual responsibility of marking and creating for others. It’s heavy with Laney and Richards out, but someone has to do it and that responsibility lies with them. Despite their struggles, the team continues to build chemistry and comfort with each other.

Player to watch: Breanna Stewart

What if? That’s the question Joe and Clara Wu Tsai have probably been asking since meeting Stewie during free agency this winter. She was impressed by the Tsais, but agreed to return to Seattle. Sue Bird spoke about the free agency process and said:

“It’s great for our game. It’s literally why we wanted the CBA to be what it is. I think all of us involved knew there would be some growing pains, which I think we still see. I knew then that GMs and agents were going to make their money. It’s really on them.

“From the player’s point of view, wine and dinner are attractive. Having a billionaire steal and come meet you and do all these things reminds me of college house calls. … We needed more player movement, which wasn’t really happening before.

As the game continues to develop, free agency and the rumor cycle will take the WNBA and make it a year-round sport. That would be a terrific development.

On the court, Stewie will again tangle with his old friend Natasha Howard. Similar to Loyd, it was a total team effort as they held Stewart 7-19 from the field. Howard had the mission for much of the night and did a great job before committing a foul early in overtime. Howard gives the team post scoring options and a big who is a respectable threat from the outside as they can pick and bust your defense throughout the game. This versatility along with his excellence in defense gives the team a fighting chance every time they get dressed.

From the safe

Sunday night, the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics will square off in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. The winner will face a three-time NBA champion who last appeared in the NBA Finals three years ago, the Golden State Warriors.

On Friday night, George Karl, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton were in town to watch Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between the Utah Jazz and the Seattle Supersonics. The winner of that series then faced the three-time NBA champion who last appeared in the NBA Finals three years earlier, the Chicago Bulls. With that in mind, back to that magical night in Seattle

Further reading: Swish Appeal

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