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New York Liberty describes the blast’s loss of mystics as a ‘colossal lesson’

New York Liberty describes the blast’s loss of mystics as a ‘colossal lesson’

Alexa FilippoESPNMay 19, 2023 at 10:38 p.m. ET4 minutes to read

Shakira Austin from Mystics with the big block

Shakira Austin from Mystics with the big block

Assigned to a “super team” heading into the 2023 WNBA season, the The New York Liberty showed they’re still in business after their season-opening 80-64 loss to the host Washington Mystics on Friday night.

No team has lost the season opener by 16 points and has gone on to win a WNBA title, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But advocate Courtney Vandersloot said Liberty is nowhere near “panic by any means”.

“You have to pile it up,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “I wish we had a little longer camp with our full squad… We can learn a lot from this. The team with the most chemistry definitely won tonight. We weren’t very good, and they were very good.”

Indeed, New York looked like a team with many new players still getting back into their basketball groove, while DC seemed like a unit that had played together for years. After all, four out of the five starters were part of her title-winning run in 2019.

“That was a big lesson for us,” said Vandersloot. “What a big test for us to start the season and play a team like this that really clicked on all cylinders tonight.”

In Brooklyn, offseason additions Brenna Stewart, Jonquil Jones, and Vandersloot saw limited action in training camp, as they completely took the training ground for the first time this week. Jones, who requested a trade to New York in January, is recovering from a foot injury, while Stewart, who signed with Liberty in free agency, rested parts of the off-season camp in Turkey. Vandersloot, who was also a free agent, lost time after suffering a concussion early in camp.

Jones and Vandersloot were both in the minute restrictions on Friday, seeing the floor for 19 and 27 minutes, respectively.

The lack of chemistry and rust showed up on Friday, as the Liberty shot 34% from the field compared to 45.7% by the Mystics. Liberty also went 7-for-31 from 3-point range and committed 22 turnovers. Capitalizing on New York’s mistakes, Washington dominated the open floor with 16 fast break points.

β€œAt the end of the day, the more chemistry we build, the more we understand the offense and the situations we want to put each of us in, that will take care of themselves,” Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “It starts with me and Courtney as captain and taking ownership of the ball and holding everyone accountable. We’ve forced it a little bit.”

Former No. 1 Ionescu leads all scorers with 18 points, while Stewart (12 points) and Petnya Lani (10) combined with 22 points.

Team Liberty is hoping to get better ahead of their Sunday home opener at 2 p.m. ET.

“We got good shots,” Ionescu said. “We’ve got footage that we know we’re going to do, and we’re going to build that up and deliver it on Sunday.”

Liberty’s growing pains aside, the performance was a statement from the Mystics that they are not a team to forget when talking about championship contenders.

“You can keep sleeping,” said Natasha Cloud, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. “We’re confident in what we have in this locker room. You can keep talking about superhero teams, but we know who we are and we know what we bring every night. … We’re a selfless team that really enjoys being around each other. When you talk about putting together a team Championship, that is exactly it.”

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