At 3-5 on young season, Katie Smith recognized opportunity to improve in first year as Liberty head coach, stressing need to win above all. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Following a hard-fought loss to the Phoenix Mercury one week ago, Katie Smith talked about doing the little things.
Those all-important items included caring for the ball, boxing out, following defensive assignments, and the like, things that do not materialize in the box score. Smith’s New York Liberty team has been competitive and very close, even with four setbacks decided by six points or less before their 78-63 loss to Las Vegas Wednesday night.
“I thought holding a high scoring team like them them to 78 would give us a great chance to win,” Smith remarked, citing the Aces’ average of 81 points per game entering Wednesday’s contest. However, it did not, the offense being a major reason why, and her primary issue at this point.
Aside from the turnover situation -- the Liberty committed 13 miscues in Wednesday’s loss -- a chief concern for the Liberty is getting complimentary scoring. Tina Charles is the number one option. Against Las Vegas, Charles led all scorers with 19 points, slightly off her 22-point per game average. Kia Nurse, the rookie out of UConn, has been effective early on as well, averaging 14.6 points per outing. With teams constantly doubling down -- as defensive minded Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer did -- as Charles gets the ball down low, supporting cast members such as Nurse have to step up and hit shots on a regular basis. Too often on Wednesday, Charles was doubled and forced to pass out of double-teams as the ball was reversed for an open perimeter look. The Liberty have shooters and they need to respond.
Bria Hartley, part of cadre of Liberty guards, backs down a Las Vegas defender. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
Having guards again is a plus. Brittany Boyd is back from an injury. Against Las Vegas, Epiphanny Prince made her season debut. Prince could represent the shooting needed to take pressure off Charles.
“Epiphanny needs to get her legs back,” Smith said. “Once she rounds into playing form, she can help us.”
For Smith, though, it all comes down to coming up with added options.
“There are multiple ways to win,” she said. ‘You can play a knock-down, drag-out game, you can drive and kick. Teams are doing a nice job of doubling Tina. We have to learn to make plays around her.”
At 3-5, there is appreciable time remaining in the season. With the compressed schedule, though, it will be a challenge. Practice time and film sessions are at a premium as weeks of three games are becoming the norm. Beyond the numbers, Smith summed up the Liberty’s situation best.
“We have to learn foremost how to win,” she bluntly stated.