The New York Liberty looked far from the juggernaut team that dominated the regular season in Game 1 of their best-of-five WNBA semi-finals series against the Connecticut Sun. Connecticut, who went winless against New York during their season series, shocked the Liberty with a 78-63 beatdown of the No. 2 seed team.
The Sun set the tone early in the first quarter and eventually controlled the rest of the game in the second half with terrific basketball on both sides of the floor. The Liberty, after their “worst game of the season,” now find themselves in a must-win situation for Game 2 as they ideally want to avoid going into Connecticut down 2-0.
Though New York is still the favorite to advance to the WNBA Finals, there is good reason to believe the Sun can actually pull off the upset and potentially make a return trip to the championship round. The semis opener has given an indication that the Liberty have their work cut for themselves. With that said, here are three reasons the New York Liberty are in big trouble following their Game 1 debacle versus the Sun.
1. Three-point shooting is a problem
The Liberty's three-point shooting woes during the 2023 WNBA Playoffs have continued and it haunted them in Game 1. New York went just 29.6 percent (8-of-27) from long distance in the series opener after making just 28.9 percent from three in their first round series versus the Washington Mystics. The Sun deserve credit for this as well.
Limiting its opponents to just 32.1 percent from deep, Connecticut finished as the best team in the league in defending the three-point shot during the regular season. They did that again on Sunday by forcing the Liberty into tough shots.
This could be a cause for concern for the Liberty, as they could be cooling off from long distance at the worst time possible. They finished the regular season with the best three-point shooting campaign in league history. If Connecticut is able to keep the pressure from their defense beyond the arc, they should have a good shot of pulling off the upset.
2. Breanna Stewart is struggling
It's a real concern, folks. After a stellar 2023 regular season, MVP candidate Breanna Stewart has gone cold in the postseason. Stewart went just 7-of-25 from the field in the 15-point loss and missed all of her eight three-point shot attempts to finish with 19 points in Game 1.
During their first round series against the Mystics, Stewart went a combined 12-of-41 from the field (29.3 percent). Following Sunday's stinker, she is now 1-of-17 from long distance in three playoff games and 1-of-23 if we're going to count New York's regular season finale.
The last four games have been a massive struggle for the Liberty star. Credit Connecticut's defense for making life difficult for her, and it's not going to get easier any time soon, with Alyssa Thomas absolutely hounding her for 40 minutes. It's likely that the shooting woes are getting into her head as well. If Stewart's struggles continue, New York is in big trouble.
3. The Liberty can't stop the Sun inside the paint
Another cause for concern for the Liberty is their inability to stop the Sun inside the paint. Connecticut had 34 points in the paint in Game 1. New York's interior defense was non-existent throughout the series opener, especially in the second half. There were several instances where Sun players had easy looks underneath the rim as the Liberty defense watched them waltz and cut inside the lane without any resistance.
The Liberty do have the size advantage, but the Sun have also done a great job in keeping Jonquel Jones outside the lane on the defensive end. New York will need to make the necessary adjustments with their defensive strategy to ensure that a body is always in the lane at all times to prevent easy looks for Connecticut at the cup.