Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sky 78, Liberty 68: Tempo-Free Recap

Courtney Vandersloot addresses media following Chicago's win over Liberty at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- The Chicago Sky are at the bottom of the Eastern Division in the WNBA, yet still were a challenge as they entered the Garden on a two-game win streak. The 5-12 Sky came off home victories over Minnesota and Dallas. The Liberty, on the other hand, came into Friday night's contest at 8-8 as they prepared for their first home game since a loss to Connecticut on June 23.

The road was indeed unfriendly, as New York dropped three of four after that loss to the Sun. For the third-place Liberty, a win was an obvious necessity, but far from a given.

In a game featuring eleven lead changes and two ties, Chicago scored their third straight victory, defeating the Liberty 78-68.  

The first four minutes saw Chicago take a 9-4 lead. The Liberty went inside to Tina Charles on the first possession and scored. After that, the offense stagnated. Chicago ran some motion and flex sets, actively pursuing and not afraid to take any open shots on the perimeter. Chicago scored four field goals in the first four minutes, with only one coming in the paint as they built a 23-17 lead after the opening stanza, recording an efficiency rating of 110 while yielding a scant 81 figure to the host Liberty. The Sky did not attempt a free throw in the first quarter, as most of their attack was perimeter-oriented.

The Liberty tightened up on defense, yet the struggles continued on the offensive end as they trailed by a 38-34 margin at halftime. Chicago did not attempt a free throw the entire first half. One bright spot for both teams was a 10 percent turnover rate for the first two quarters as the Sky continued to win the efficiency battle, outperforming the Liberty by a 91-83 count.

The Liberty came out of the locker room to a 9-4 start to take a 43-42 lead at the six-minute mark of the third quarter. Offensively, New York moved Charles to the high post to give her more breathing room, catch and make a move. Charles showed a willingness and ability to hit mid-range jumpers.

The offenses may not have put a highlight reel together for most of the game, a credit to both teams' defense. Stefanie Dolson’s three-pointer gave Chicago a 53-52 lead heading into the final quarter, where they would outscore the hosts 25-16 to provide the final margin. Dolson showed Charles was not the only former UConn standout who could operate on the perimeter or in the paint, as she led the Sky with 23 points in the winning effort. Courtney Vandersloot (13 points, 9 assists) and Allie Quigley (10 points, 8 assists) proved to be an effective combination in the Chicago backcourt.

Charles was her dominating self, pacing the Liberty with 23 points and leading all players with 19 rebounds. Sugar Rodgers came alive in the fourth quarter, but her effort unfortunately proved too little too late.

Final Pace Numbers
Possessions: Chicago 79, New York 81
Offensive efficiency: Chicago 99, New York 84

Four Factors
Effective field goal percentage: Chicago 51, New York 36
Free throw rate: Chicago 6, New York 26
Offensive rebound rate: Chicago 6, New York 33
Turnover rate: Chicago 9, New York 12

What Chicago did well: Shoot 8-for-20 from three-point range and take care of the ball, which was more than enough to make up for any deficiencies.

What New York did well: Keep from fouling and own the offensive glass. As noted, the Sky took a good share of perimeter shots, making it tough to draw fouls. Chicago attempted only four free throws on the night, so give the Liberty credit for not excessively fouling. New York owned the offensive glass by a 16-2 tally, and outscored Chicago 15-3 in second chance points.  

Leading Scorers/Player Efficiency
Chicago: Stefanie Dolson, 23 points/26
New York: Tina Charles, 23 points/26.
Next up for New York is a home date with the Washington Mystics on Sunday. A Chicago team coached by Amber Stocks, in her first year, is suddenly catching attention. Their next contest is on Sunday as well, coming at Dallas.  

Final Thoughts
“Not a loss we could use now. From the beginning, a tough game to play. After a long road trip, tough to get back in sync. Between now and Sunday film, not much you can change. Struggling to shoot. The four games we lost due to poor shooting. Not a fun time, we are struggling. We have to loosen up have fun and play basketball. Overall, we are playing well defensively. We are solid there and rebounding, but we struggle on the offensive end. We have to find a way to score consistently. Tina Charles is the only player who can score, especially inside. She needs the minutes. I think (Kia) Vaughn has been coming on strong inside. Kiah Stokes hasn’t had the impact on the game this year as she had in the past. As a team, we are not getting easy baskets, nor are we attacking their defense before it sets up. We have to look at our options and see how to get some easy baskets.” - Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer

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