It’s not quite as bad as it was last season when the Liberty lost their last 13 games of the season, but New York has now lost 13 of their last 14 —and four straight—with two games remaining on their schedule.
On Tuesday night, it was the league-leading Mystics who took the Liberty’s measure, 93-77, before 1,558 fans at Westchester County Center in White Plains. The Liberty have one more home game at the 89-year-old facility. Although there’s been no official announcement, the Libs are expected to move to Barclays Center next season now that Joe Tsai has purchased the Brooklyn arena, part of his $3.5 billion purchase of the Nets and their arena.
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Marine Johannes, a French forward, was Tsai’s big off-season acquisition, and Han Xu, a Chinese center, represent two of the three big additions since the Taiwanese-Canadian businessman bought the Liberty from James Dolan back in January. Johannes was signed as a free agent, Han a second round pick. (The other, Asia Durr, the overall No. 2 pick in the WNBA Draft, is still suffering from a nagging groin injury.)
When the Liberty were mathematically eliminated last week, coach Katie Smith decided to give both of them more minutes. It was Johannes’ second straight 20-point effort since then. Johannes led the Liberty with a career-high 22 points. The rookie from France had scored 21 points in her previous game. The 5’10” Johannes shot 4-of-7 from deep and 8-of-12 overall to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Han, the WNBA’s tallest and youngest player, had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting overall, including 1-of-2 from deep.
Most of the Liberty’s other mainstays had subpar games with perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer Tina Charles tallying only four points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. She did have five assists.
The Mystics, the WNBA’s top team, led the entire game. Elena Delle Donne scored 25 of her 30 points in the first half and the Washington Mystics cruised to their 24th win in 32 games. Ariel Atkins added 23 points for the Mystics, who have clinched a top-two seed for the playoffs and extended their lead over second place Connecticut to 1 1/2 games.
Washington raced to a 31-19 lead after one quarter and with Delle Donne scoring 17 points in the second quarter stretched the advantage to 58-40 at the break. Delle Donne and LaToya Sanders both had 10 rebounds as the Mystics dominated the boards 42-23.