New York Liberty: Five reach double figures in latest loss

BRADENTON - JULY 10: Walt Hopkins of the New York Liberty talks to his players during practice at IMG Academy on July 10, 2020 in Bradenton, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty’s competitive loss to Chicago saw a silver lining of five different New Yorkers score at least 10 points.

The New York Liberty forced the Chicago Sky into some low-percentage shots on Thursday night in the Bradenton bubble. But such a term may well not exist in the Sky’s glossary.

Chicago sank 11 of their first 19 three-point attempts on the evening, keeping a resilient Liberty effort at bay in what became a 101-83 victory. Azura Stevens led the way with 25 points while Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot had 19 each (the latter also earned a double-double with 10 assists).

Despite the loss, members of the Liberty (1-11) seemed comfortable with the effort against one of the WNBA’s elite.

“I’m really proud of the team,” head coach Walt Hopkins said of the effort in a postgame Zoom call. “Chicago’s a heck of a team. They shot the heck out of the ball tonight and made us pay for some lapses in our defense. But what’s been missing is our group believing in themselves, I think. They found that again tonight. Their energy was fantastic. Even when they were making mistakes, their energy was there.”

“Today, we bounced back. We definitely found our identity again,” Jazmine Jones added. “We played hard the whole game. We kept fighting. Chicago, they had a great shooting night. Almost everything they shot went in. But I feel like we played good, we played hard. It’s just about taking that next step, and consistency too. It’s all about being better in practice tomorrow and the next game on Saturday.”

Prior to Thursday’s game, Hopkins was hoping to recapture the spark the Liberty displayed at the start of the month. They earned their lone win of the season to date against defending champion Washington in the span, but the past two games were a struggle. New York had tallied only 64 points in each of their past two games.

But with the exception of a 34-23 deficit in the second quarter, the Liberty only trailed the Sky (9-4) by five after the three remainders. Five players reached double figures for New York, paced by Jones’ 18. It’s the fifth straight game that the 12th overall pick of April’s draft has tallied at least 10 points. Jones has averaged 15.2 points per game in that span.

Behind Jones, Kiah Stokes had a season-high 14 and fell one rebound short of a double-double. Kia Nurse had 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Layshia Clarendon (12 points) and Amanda Zahui B (11) rounded out the list. Nurse would go on to call it the Liberty’s best offensive performance of the season.

“I think we took good shots, we created good shots for other people,” Nurse said. “We moved the ball really well and our offense looks probably the best that is has all season.”

“That’s huge for us moving forward, just knowing and seeing this as a baseline for us, essentially, in knowing what people can do. People played to their strengths today. Jaz is great in the mid-range pick and roll, and that’s what she did for us today, she got to the line. Stokes was great in the post and running in transition. I think that continued throughout the game, that everybody got a little confidence, so hopefully, that continues and that we grow together and build.”

The Liberty won’t have long to wait for another chance at the Sky, as the squads are due for a rematch on Tuesday night. It’s possible Chicago could be without All-Star Diamond DeShields for the second get-together. The third overall pick of the 2018 draft left the game in the first half after landing awkwardly after a shot attempt. DeShields was helped off the court and did not return to the game.

In the meantime, the Liberty will take on the Connecticut Sun on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, CBSSN/Fox Sports Go) for the first of two meetings.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags