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Liberty eke out win in final game vs. Atlanta Dream

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Tsai’s first season as a New York sports team owner is complete. His Liberty defeated the Atlanta Dream, 71-63, in a battle between the WNBA’s bottom two teams Sunday, the last day of the WNBA season.

By winning in Atlanta, the Liberty finished 10-24, one game better than the Dream in the final league standings. They also ended a five-game losing streak. Before Sunday, New York had lost 14 of the last 15. A year ago, the Liberty finished their season with a 13-game losing streak.

Because the WNBA Draft is based on worst record in the preceding two years, the Liberty had already clinched the bets odds for the overall No. 1 pick next April.

The Liberty’s two bigs dominated play. Tina Charles scored 14 points, Amanda Zahui B added a double-double (on her 26th birthday). Zahui B had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Charles had eight rebounds and closed the season with 156 career double-doubles, one behind Lisa Leslie, who’s second on the WNBA all-time list.

Katie Smith, the Liberty coach, had been playing her younger players bigger minutes after New York was mathematically eliminated from the WNBA playoffs. However, on Sunday, she went with her big names once again.

Brittney Sykes had 12 points for the Dream and Jessica Breland had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Tsai has gotten credit around the NBA for investing resources in the Liberty, both in terms of personnel and facilities. He is expected to announce soon that the Liberty will move from the Westchester County Center in White Plains to Barclays Center. No word on when that will happen but the closing on the sale of the arena is not complete as the Nets wait on approval of their sale to Tsai. The NBA Board of Governors is expected to approve the sale in its next meeting later this month.