On the night their all-time best player was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, it would have been nice if the Liberty won their last home game of the season ... and more than likely, their last home game at Westchester County Center. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Final score: Indiana Fever 86, New York Liberty 81. The Liberty is now 9-24, having lost five straight and 14 of their last 15.
For about the umpteenth time this season, the Liberty blew a lead late, this time in dramatic fashion. Tina Charles’ basket with 5:57 left in the game gave New York an 81-72 lead. It was the Liberty’s final points of the game as Indiana scored the last 14.
Candice Dupree’s jumper with 1:25 left gave Indiana its first lead of the fourth quarter. After New York’s Tanisha Wright missed a jumper, Tiffany Mitchell hit a layup to extend the lead to 84-81 with 53 seconds left. Dupree and Mitchell each added a free throw in the final 25 seconds and New York could get no closer. The Liberty were outscored 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
There was a silver lining to the Liberty’s loss. Since seeding in the WNBA Draft is based on teams’ records over the past two seasons, the Liberty clinched the best odds in the Draft next April. The Liberty are 16-51 over the past two years and Indiana is 18-49, so Friday’s loss was crucial. Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon’s 5’10” point guard, is viewed as the top pick in the 2020 Draft.
‘’If we get the first pick then yes that’s the silver lining for losing tonight,’’ Liberty head coach Katie Smith said after the game. ‘’I would have rather won the game.’’
As the Liberty were losing, their Director of Player and Franchise Development —and their all-time best player, Teresa Weatherspoon, was being inducted in the Hall. The Liberty wore warmup shirts for Weatherspoon, which had a list of her accomplishments on the back and a graphic on the front.
It was a back and forth first half with New York’s reserves playing well once again. Marine Johannes had 10 points and Brittany Boyd had six points, six assists and four rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Charles finished with 19 points, and Johannes added 16. Han Xu, however, didn’t score and took only one shot in nearly 10 minutes of play. Asia Durr, the Libs’ top draft pick and the No. 2 overall, is still out with a groin injury.
The game drew 2,301 fans to the White Plains arena, one of the home team’s best numbers in the season’s 17 home dates ... but less than a third of the crowd that watched the Liberty at Barclays Center a month ago in their lone game in Brooklyn this season. It’s expected that with Joe Tsai owning the Liberty and Barclays, the team will relocate to Brooklyn next season.
Friday’s game was also the 17th and last game aired by the YES Network. The Liberty play at Atlanta on Sunday to close out their season.