After dropping Game 1 of the WNBA Finals 99-82, the New York Liberty have their backs against the wall. The Las Vegas Aces outscored the Liberty 53-33 in the second half, dominating every aspect of the game. Now, it’s up to New York to make adjustments and take back control of the series with Game 2 of the series coming up on Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
There are unfortunately no moral victories in the postseason, but the Liberty came out firing in the first half. New York shot 51.4% from the field and 40% from three, led by 14 points off the bench from Marine Johannes. Johannes set the world on fire in the first half, shooting 4-5 from three.
If the Liberty lived by the three in the first half, they died by the three in the second half, going a combined 1-9 in the last 20 minutes. Las Vegas on the other hand shot 61% from inside the arc, as the backcourt dominated New York. Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young combined for 72 points total during the game, with all three scoring in double figures in the second half.
It is no secret this series is going to come down to guard play, and the Liberty needs more from Courtney Vandersloot and Sabria Ionescu if they are going to be competitive. The duo combined for 17 points, going 6-18 from the field. With how much New York relies on their three-point shooting to stretch the floor against Vegas, Ionescu especially has to be better.
While it may seem doom and gloom for New York, there are positives to take away from game one. Jonquel Jones has been as steady as can be for the Liberty. The center has been a monster in the playoffs, recording a double-double in every single game so far. With her 16-point 10 rebound performance in game one, Jones now holds the record for most double-doubles in a single postseason in WNBA history.
Another sign of hope for the Liberty? The last time Sabrina Ionescu scored seven points against the Aces, the very next game Sabrina erupted for 31 points and went 6-10 from three. The sharpshooter has proven throughout this season she can respond to adversity, and the Liberty will need her to on Wednesday night.
Finally, a trend that can make Liberty fans hopeful or foreshadow their demise, neither team won consecutive games against each other in the regular season. The top two teams in the WNBA have shown a knack for making adjustments against one another, preventing any kind of momentum from being built in one direction or the other. Of course, the Liberty will now have to win consecutive games against the Aces if they want to take home a championship.
As the series progresses, New York must rely on Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot to stretch the floor and give easier, high-percentage looks to the offense as a whole. The Aces are going to throw a slew of looks at the Liberty, but it’s about consistency on the offensive end that will lead the Liberty to the promised land.