Maybe Liberty has something going
Growth of Asia Durr and Kia Nurse could propel good things to come for the New York Liberty.
No one said this was going to be easy when it comes to building a team. So many losses in the name of lessons take place during the season.
But on a night like Wednesday night, it can be rewarding, too. After a four-game losing streak to start the season and a 17-game losing streak total that goes back to last season, the Liberty currently own a two-game winning streak after a 75-69 victory over the Minnesota Lynx at Westchester County Center.
The winning streak makes everything look good because results matter. But what’s encouraging about the Liberty is their core players played a role in their two-game winning streak. Asia Durr, Kia Davis and Amanda Zahui B led the Liberty in this victory on a night they did not have to rely on Tina Charles to give them a chance to win.
The objective of this season is developing core players and getting better as the season progresses. It remains to be seen if they can do that, but these two games should be a good sign moving forward.
Durr showed why the Liberty drafted her as the No. 2 pick. She scored eight points to engineer the Liberty’s 14-2 run that gave them a 23-10 lead in the second quarter, and she scored 12 of her 20 points in the first half. She also helped the Liberty finish off the Lynx by hitting two jump shots in the end.
The Liberty needed plenty of shooters in a sport now that is predicated on shooting. They finished 11th in the WNBA in scoring (77.7 points per game), field goals made (29.4 percent) and three-point shooting (31.7 percent) last season, so it was obvious they were drafting Durr, who was the best shooter available in the draft.
Durr averaged 17.8 points per game and shot 38.5 percent on threes per year. She finished her senior year in a flourish by scoring 21.2 points per game, which was good enough for her to win the Dawn Staley Award (nation’s top guard) and the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (Division 1’s top shooting guard).
Durr not only can shoot, but she can break through defenders and attack the rim. She did just that by splitting through two Lynx defenders and scoring with 20 seconds left to seal the win after the Lynx cut their deficit to 71-62. Her defense isn’t shabby, either.
So far with the Liberty, the rookie averaged 12 points per game on 47 percent shooting in the five games she played, and she shot 19 percent on the 3-point line.
Durr has come along nicely, and she and the Liberty expect more good things moving forward.
The Liberty picked Nurse as the No. 10 pick last season. She is another guard that provides scoring punch, and now they feature a pair of shooters to build around in her and Durr.
In her rookie season, she averaged nine points per game on 40 percent shooting, and she shot from 29 percent this season. This season, she averaged 14 points per game on 45 percent shooting in the six games she played, and she shot 45 percent on the 3-point line.
The Liberty expected growth from the former UConn guard this season based on last year’s experience and her understanding of the WNBA. So far, she has taken the role of being a leader through her performance.
Wednesday night served as an example when Nurse scored 18 of her season-high 26 points in the second half, including 11 points that feature two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. She kept the Liberty afloat by surviving the Lynx’s run when they cut the lead to five at one point.
Then, there’s Zahui B. She and Tina Charles serve as the elder leaders for the Liberty. In her fifth year in the WNBA, she is entering in her prime. She also is part of the core nucleus the Liberty are building around. She does the yeoman work in the glass in getting rebounds and setting up Charles, Moore and Durr to score.
Zahui B had a double-double by scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Her defense kept the Liberty afloat when the Lynx started the second half strong. If not for her defense and her timely scoring, the Liberty may not have won this game.
No one is saying the Liberty will make the playoffs or go on a run now. But these two wins provide perspective that good days could come soon. Watching Nurse, Durr and Zahui B take charge of this game against a good Lynx team serves as encouragement.
The Liberty have a good fanbase in town than people give credit for. Their fans appreciate good basketball and effort. Wednesday night brought great vibes all around the arena. If the Liberty provide more games like that, people will embrace this team.
The Liberty showed they can be entertaining when Nurse and Durr shoot well and display their athleticism.
The development of the guards and wins that comes with it goes a long way in securing second-year Liberty coach Katie Smith’s future and a better tomorrow for the Liberty.