On a day when Joe Tsai acquired his own NBA team and arena, his WNBA club suffered its seventh straight loss ... and in heartbreaking form.
The Liberty, which Tsai bought in January from James Dolan, had a two-point lead over the Dallas Wings with 1:43 to go but the Texas team rallied and came away with a 83-77 win Friday night at the College Park Center on the University of Texas at Arlington campus.
The Liberty has now lost 10 of its last 11 after a promising start.
Isabelle Harrison’s basket with 40.4 seconds left gave Dallas a 76-75 lead. Arike Ogunbowale, who added 21 points for the Wings (9-17), followed with three consecutive free throws and Gray added a pair to make it 81-75 with 17.4 seconds to go.
Bria Hartley cut the deficit to four with a pair of free throws for the Liberty (8-17), but that was as close as they would get. New York had trailed by seven in the middle of the fourth quarter but rallied.
Tina Charles led New York with 25 points. Kia Nurse added 17 points and Hartley scored 12. Charles, the Liberty’s All-Star center, finished with seven rebounds as well. The Liberty shot only 28.6 percent from three and turned the ball over 16 times, led by Tanisha Wright’s four.
The Liberty, of course, is one of the big winners in Tsai’s acquisition of Barclays Center. With the Taiwanese-Canadian businessman now in charge of the Brooklyn arena, it’s anticipated that he’ll move the Liberty from antiquated Westchester County Center in White Plains to Brooklyn next summer. Dolan, in a cost-cutting move, dispatched the Liberty from the Garden two years ago.
The Liberty drew 7,715 fans to Barclays last Sunday in their only home game outside Westchester this season. That’s still 2,000 fewer fans than came to MSG during the Liberty heyday a few years back, but about the same as attendance at Newark’s Prudential Center where the Liberty played for three years earlier in the decade when the Garden was being renovated.
Moving the Liberty back to the city will help the WNBA as well since New York was by far its biggest draw before the move.
It’s unknown whether Tsai will continue to operate the Liberty as a separate entity or fold it into some larger holding company that would include the Nets, Barclays, the Long Island Nets and Nets Gaming Crew. The press release announcing the sale said simply that the Nets and Barclays center were being sold to “an entity controlled by Joe Tsai.”
As noted, Tsai will now become one of four NBA owners to control franchises in the league, WNBA, G League and NBA2k leagues. The others are Ted Leonsis of the Wizards, Glen Taylor of the Timberwolves and Herbert Simon of the Pacers.