Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello gestures during a WNBA playoff...

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello gestures during a WNBA playoff game against the Washington Mystics at Barclays Center on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Liberty were in trouble in the third quarter, looking up from the bottom of a 20-point pit.

This wasn’t Game 1 against the Sun in the WNBA semifinals Sunday at Barclays Center. This was in Connecticut on Aug. 24.

And what happened? The Liberty somehow climbed out, tying the score on two free throws with 1.4 seconds left in regulation and winning in OT to match the largest successful comeback in franchise history.

So now the Liberty are in trouble again against the Sun and have to try to climb out of another pit after dropping Game 1, 78-63.

Game 2 in this best-of-five series is set for Tuesday night at Barclays. The second-seeded Liberty will face a very difficult challenge if they head to Connecticut for Friday night’s Game 3 down two games to none, with Sunday’s Game 4, if necessary, also being played at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Liberty have been expected to face defending champ Las Vegas in the WNBA Finals and compete for the franchise’s first league title. They know they need to take an immediate step toward saving their heretofore special season.

“Now our backs are against the wall,” coach Sandy Brondello said. “We have to kind of respond in the right way

. . . We’ve got to win this next game.”

Something was missing against the third-seeded Sun in the last game.

Jonquel Jones spoke of needing more energy and more effort.

“I just feel like mindset-wise, it just wasn’t there,” Jones said. “Coming into the next game, we can’t allow that to happen. We won’t allow that to happen.”

The Liberty came out sluggish in the first and third quarters.

“It’s been happening the last few games,” Brondello said. “I think it’s mindset. Frustration sets in and we don’t execute. We know we’re better than that.”

They also know they have to find ways to solve Connecticut’s formidable defensive work led by Alyssa Thomas. The Sun held them to 33.8% shooting and a season-low point total, including no fast-break points and four points in the paint in the second half.

“We always use our three As — active, aware and anticipate,” Connecticut coach Stephanie White said. “ . . . I felt like we had great awareness to not have the same action hurt us multiple times.”

Tops among those misfiring were Breanna Stewart at 7-for-25, including 0-for-8 from beyond the arc; Sabrina Ionescu at 4-for-14 and Betnijah Laney at 1-for-9.

“Credit to them,” Stewart said. “But we’ll be back.”

Brondello wants them to come back without the offensive stagnation.

“We’re best when we’re moving the ball, but I think we got started looking in for the post players that weren’t open,” Brondello said. “ . . . Obviously, Stewie, she just had so many people around her. We’ve got to do better with our spacing and our cutting.”

Believing will be important, too.

“OK, we’ve lost a game,” Brondello said. “But we can make changes, and we’ve got to all stay together and believe we can get this done.”

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