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Liberty, Fever aim to bounce back from missteps

May 19, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins (21) drives to the basket as New York Liberty forward Jonquel Jones (35) defends at Entertainment & Sports Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With lots of debuts out of the way, the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty will try to accomplish another first when they meet Sunday afternoon in New York.

One of these teams will pick up its first victory of the season.

Both teams lost season openers Friday night, with the Fever falling at home to the Connecticut Sun and the Liberty losing a road game to the Washington Mystics.

It could take time before these teams gel.

“It has got to build up,” New York coach Sandy Brondello said after her team’s 80-64 setback. “I wish we had a long camp with our full team. But it was good to get one game out of the way. We’ll learn a lot from this.”

Guard Sabrina Ionescu collected 18 points and eight rebounds for the Liberty, however Breanna Stewart finished with just 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field in her Liberty debut.

“The more chemistry we build, it will take care of itself,” Ionescu said.

On Sunday, Stewart will play at home for her home-state team. She spent her entire pro career with Seattle.

The Liberty also might look for more from forward Jonquel Jones, who was limited to 19 minutes in the opener. Brondello said with Jones and Courtney Vandersloot still working back into full-time form, their playing time might be abbreviated early in the season.

“It’s a long season,” Brondello said. “I’d love to play them as much as I could.”

The Fever have a star in the making in rookie Aliyah Boston, who was the overall No. 1 pick in last month’s draft. She provided 15 points and nine rebounds in her professional debut, a 70-61 setback to the Sun.

“I don’t really look at myself as a rookie,” Boston said. “Just because I just look at it as basketball. It’s another level up, but I’m just a competitor.”

Boston, a college standout for South Carolina, is expected to make a big impact for the Fever.

“She doesn’t have a rookie mindset,” teammate Kelsey Mitchell said. “She’s a player. She’s going to compete. I wouldn’t want anybody else on my side.”

Mitchell gave the Fever a game-high 20 points. The Fever, who were hindered by 33.3 percent shooting from the field, got minutes from 10 players in the opener.

First-year coach Christie Sides of the Fever is in search of her first victory. Her first game in charge was hindered by a 43-35 rebounding deficit and Indiana’s 19 turnovers.

The Liberty had good work on the boards against Washington, securing a 40-32 advantage in that category.

“That’s one of our goals,” Brondello said. “But eight offensive boards, and we didn’t convert them to points. Lots of offensive boards, but we missed them. We’ve got to get our legs under us.”

–Field Level Media