NEWARK, NJ – “We came to play but didn’t come to win.” Those words stood etched in short term memory. No notes needed to be scribbled. Bill Laimbeer was putting the finishing touches on assessing his New York Liberty team’s beating at the hands of the Chicago Sky.
Walking out to the main floor at the Prudential Center the scoreboard still had the record of the grim final. Chicago 93 New York 64. Ouch!
“We warned them (the Liberty) in practice that following a long road trip you are lethargic,” Laimbeer noted. “We also said the Sky would be coming at us pretty hard following two straight losses. We had to respond with a little extra. Call it lack of legs, effort, whatever, we didn’t have it.”
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Chicago extended an 18-17 lead after one quarter to an eleven point lead at intermission. Epiphanny Prince’s perimeter work (11 second quarter points) was instrumental in the Sky’s run.
The Sky came out strong after the break not letting the Liberty back in. By the end of three the visitors enjoyed a 24 point edge. The fourth quarter saw no Liberty run to speak of as the Sky improved to 8-4.
“I was concerned,” admitted Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “The Liberty had only one loss here at home and that was against San Antonio in overtime.”
The concerns were dispelled by an attack that saw the Sky shoot 45% from the field with a marksmanship of 50% (9 of 18) from downtown. Four players were in double digits lead by rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne with a game high 20 points plus six rebounds. Prince added 18 while Swin Cash and Sylvia Fowles were heard from inside with a dozen and ten respective points.
Cappie Pondexter led New York with 18 points. Beside shooting just 33% from the field, the Liberty struggled again on the defensive end.
The offense will come around but Laimbeer is deeply troubled by the defense. Something he has emphasized with the Liberty from his first days on the New York sideline. Today marked three straight games the Liberty gave up over 90 points. All, to no surprise, were losses. “We have to get right back to our defense,” Laimbeer said. “In practice we have to break down our principles. We need to be cohesive and not forget assignments.”
The four game road trip saw one win (at Seattle) in the four games. Sandwiched around that are two losses. The setback from San Antonio and today’s defeat by Chicago leaving New York at 5-7. That is five of the last six the Liberty have dropped. Laimbeer looks at the big picture while not neglecting the present. The WNBA is not college where there might be a week between contests. “This is pro basketball,” he said. “You have to be ready for what is next. For us it is taking care of our bodies, getting a good practice on Monday and preparing to play again Tuesday.”
Tuesday sees a visit from the Seattle team the Liberty knocked off a little over a week ago. That is the past and Laimbeer knows it. “We need a win,” he said. “We need one now.”