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Late night hoops: Liberty look to take down the Sparks

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Minnesota Lynx v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Tough breaks. Following their first win of the year, the New York Liberty sought to make it two straight on Sunday evening against the Las Vegas Aces. The Liberty put up a great fight, but couldn’t bring it all the way home and suffered a tough two point loss thanks to an A’ja Wilson game winner. It’s like that sometimes.

The opponent tonight will be the Los Angeles Sparks. After a disastrous end to the 2019 season, Derek Fisher and friends are back hoping to make amends and get back to championship contention. They helped the cause with a great win against the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday afternoon.

Where to follow the game

Fox Sports Go for the live game. YES Network on replay the next morning. We’re up late so tip off will be after 10 PM. Nets early, Liberty late.

Injuries

Sabrina Ionescu is out. Kylee Shook is questionable with a foot injury.

Kristi Toliver, Maria Vadeeva, and Chiney Ogwumike are sitting this season out. Ogwumike will be busy in the media space as she will be hosting a radio show on ESPN Radio with Mike Golic, Jr. starting on the 17th. Shout out to her. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was limited to 3:19 of playing time due to an ankle issue and is out.

The game

One good sign for the Liberty is the turnover count. The Liberty lead the W in turnover rate, and it’s gradually decreased over the past two games following their season high against the Lynx. Ball possession is always important, but takes on even more importance without Ionescu on the court.

That said, they’ll really be cooking if Kia Nurse gets her shot back. She hasn’t shot over 40 percent in any game this season and the team needs her to be their second scoring option. When you’re in a slump like this, you’ve just gotta keep working hard and doing the work you need to to be on top of your game. The results will manifest soon enough.

Having a guard rotation of Chelsea Gray, Seimone Augustus, and Riquna Williams is pretty solid. The big issue surrounding this team is health as injuries have short-circuited them in recent years. With the grind of the bubble, Derek Fisher will have to nurse his squad through the regular season and hope that they’ll be strong enough to go on a deep playoff run.

We’ll get to see Nneka Ogwumike on the court, and her work as president of the Player’s Association has been invaluable off the court. Ogwumike helped get a new CBA in the WNBA at the beginning of the year and has been a key part of the wubble’s early success thus far. Louisa Thomas of the New Yorker has more:

Ogwumike is mindful, too, of those who aren’t there—including her sister Chiney, who is not playing, for medical reasons, and instead will focus on her other career, as an ESPN analyst. Ogwumike herself wavered about playing the season. Coronavirus cases were spiking in Florida. There was a risk of injury after such a short training camp. She was also sensitive to the concern that playing a game might pull attention away from a crucial moment in the movement for social justice. “We’ll gain nothing if there’s judgment around anyone’s choice,” Ogwumike told me. She sees the other teams’ players “less as opponents” right now, she added. “I look at them as my teammates, really. We all want to be healthy and safe, grow the game, not be tone-deaf about the times.”

It’s a team effort and so far everyone has been doing their part.

Player to watch: Candace Parker

Looks like CP3 is all the way back. After an injury riddled 2019 that ended with her benching against the Connecticut Sun in the playoffs, Parker is looking like her old self. Parker is shooting close to 50 percent from the field and has had a double double in five straight games. Parker can occasionally hit three pointers, but most of her damage comes from the post.

If the threes keep flowing, Amanda Zahui B will be impossible to defend. Zahui B was New York’s best player on Sunday, scoring 20 points and knocking down six three pointers. If not for foul trouble that saddled her on the bench as the Aces made their comeback, NY would’ve came away with their second win of the year.

From the Vault

I love it when a legend wins their first championship.

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll