New York Liberty fans got to see the good and bad that they’ve come to expect from their team this year in Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. Unfortunately for them, the bad outweighed the good to the tune of an 84-67 loss in Minneapolis.

The Lynx started the game red-hot, leading 31-17 after the first quarter and extending their lead to 21 before the Liberty answered. Breanna Stewart keyed the comeback, getting to the basket and scoring with ease.

Stewart scored eight of her 20 points in the final six minutes of the first half and Courtney Vandersloot had seven points and four assists in that span. The Liberty trailed by just four at halftime.

“I think just trying to really get downhill, get into the paint, you know, as a post player, it's tough when you have an opposing post player running at you, especially with the ball and forcing us to make something happen,” Stewart said. “I think Sloot and I were just really trying to light a spark and get things going when we cut [the Lynx’ lead].”

Liberty sent scrambling

New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart (30) brings the ball up court
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite their furious comeback, the same problems that plagued them in their Thursday loss to the Chicago Sky returned in the third quarter. The Liberty compounded their season-long three-point shooting woes with more rushed shots, sluggish defense, and turnovers not reflective of their experience.

“Both teams have been really trying to blow up any of our actions and making it tough for us,” Stewart added. “[Jonquel Jones] really seeing multiple bodies whenever she’s in the paint and they’re really playing on string together.”

That type of disruption has sent the Liberty scrambling. Sometimes, it’s meant taking shots early in the shot clock. Other times, it’s meant committed live-ball turnovers.

“We were trying to score too early in possessions,” head coach Sandy Brondello added. “You need to move really good defensive teams around… and that's where we need to have some more discipline and rely on our movement, instead of forcing something that's not there.”

On defense, the Liberty have been a few steps too slow, and the result on Sunday was too many open threes for the Lynx, who made 14 for the game.

“For whatever reason, in the last two games as we’ve been scrambling out there’s been a moment of hesitation,” Stewart said. “And then when one person hesitates, everyone else kind of follows suit.”

If there’s one moment emblematic of their struggles, it came with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. The Liberty had scratched and clawed to finally pull even at 55-55. With the ball and a chance to go ahead for the first time since the game’s opening minutes, Stewart made a pass that looked bad as soon as it left her hand. Kayla McBride picked up the steal and found Bridget Carleton for a transition three.

When the Lynx again extended the lead, the Liberty again began rushing shots, either firing up threes (they went 7-29) or plowing into the lane for contested layups.

Stewart said it herself on Thursday — the Liberty are lethal offensively when they are patient on offense.

“The coaches gave us a stat that’s like, when we get the ball from the first side to the second side to the third side, the third side is when we really convert the best,” Stewart said after their 90-81 loss to the Sky.

The Liberty are shooting just 30.4% from three this season, compared to 37.4% last year. That number will almost certainly improve as the season goes on; Sarina Ionescu (27% this year vs. 45% last year) didn’t just forget how to shoot. Nor did Stewart and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton. But poor shot selection has been a key contributor to their slumps.

“I thought Minnesota’s defense was extremely good with their activity and their pressure and their physicality,” Brondello said.

Jonquel Jones Struggles Again

Jonquel Jones was a non-factor for the second-straight game. While foul trouble on Thursday kept the former MVP from gaining any traction, on Saturday, Minnesota’s defense simply gave her no room to operate, swarming her with double and triple teams on the low block.

Jones went 1-5 from the field and missed both threes she took. She finished with four points, six rebounds, three turnovers, and five fouls.

“We need to work out how do we get her more open looks and get her into the game because she’s important and if we get her scoring, it’ll help the rest of us,” Brondello said.

Nyara Sabally spelled Jones on Thursday, and Brondello admitted after that game that she should have looked to the Oregon alum more as the Liberty played better while she was in the game. Against the Lynx, she played 13 minutes but never seemed to assert herself.

Leonie Fiebich was the only bench player that looked comfortable for the Liberty and perhaps the one silver lining the team could take out of it was the 11 points she posted, which included a 3-5 shooting performance from three.

It doesn’t get much easier from here for the Liberty. The Phoenix Mercury come to town next for a Wednesday night game at Barclays Center.