clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Shorthanded Liberty take on the Mercury

Phoenix Mercury v Indiana Fever Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Bad luck. The New York Liberty put up a fight, but lost another close one, this time to the Atlanta Dream on Friday night. The loss was severe on another level, which we’ll get to in a bit.

The opponent today will be the Phoenix Mercury. They’re looking pretty different after trading multiple time All Star and current 2020 scoring leader DeWanna Bonner to the Connecticut Sun and signing former Liberty Bria Hartley in free agency. After a rocky 0-2 start, they got back on track with a great win against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night.

Where to follow the game

ESPN has us covered today. It’s a day party so we’re getting started at 1 PM.

Injuries

The Liberty suffered a severe loss on Friday as No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu rolled her ankle and had to be carried off the court. She was diagnosed with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, the most severe, and will miss about a month of action. That’s about 12 games of the 19 remaining, meaning Ionescu will miss most of the pandemic-shortened WNBA season.

Ionescu had been extremely durable during her college at Oregon, only missing four games her freshman season, the Oregonian reported Sunday. She played every game the next three years.

Kia Nurse injured her ankle last week against the Storm and while she did play against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday, missed Friday’s game. No word on her availability for this contest.

Jessica Breland received a medical exemption in July and will not be playing this season.

The game

The Liberty are gonna have their hands full on the inside. Brittney Griner has been one of the best interior players in basketball dating back to her days at Baylor University. Griner has been a linchpin for Phoenix and might be the best big in the wubble with Jonquel Jones and Liz Cambage out for this season. Griner does her damage near the rim and is one of the league’s best rebounders, so Amanda Zahui B will have her hands full today. Zahui B has been working to expand her range to better fit Walt Hopkins’ attack, and if she can draw BG away from the rim, that should open things up for the Liberty to get clean looks at the bucket.

Basketball is always better when Diana Taurasi is around. DT was limited to only six games in 2019 as a back injury kept her out of action. It’s been a slow start to the 2020 season for Taurasi, but that was to be expected considering she was out for so long and the world being upside down thanks to COVID-19.

Next person up. With Ionescu out, the Liberty will need the rest of the roster to fill in the gap and try to replicate what Sabrina brought to the table. One of their rookies, Jazmine Jones, will look to take on a bigger role. She scored 20 in 20 minutes Friday night and if Nurse is out, she’ll have to take on even more scoring responsibilities. Jocelyn Willoughby started for Nurse in the frontcourt and will be key to New York’s chances today as well.

Player to watch: Skylar Diggins-Smith

It’s good to have her back. Diggins missed all of 2019 on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child earlier that year. She also wanted out of Dallas and was traded to Phoenix in the winter. The Mercury offense has been humming so far, and Diggins-Smith has helped the cause by shooting over 70 percent from the field and keeping the turnovers down. As the team gets more and more comfortable with the changes to the roster, having someone like Diggins-Smith running the show will make a big difference come playoff time.

Layshia Clarendon has been fierce running the point for the Liberty and will have more responsibilities now that Ionescu is out and Nurse is less than 100 percent. Clarendon has done a great job getting to the basket and the overwhelming majority of her makes have come at the rim. Coach Hopkins is gonna need Clarendon to get hot from three to help the team keep up today. We’ll see how it goes.

Jam Session

Brandy is back with a new album, so let’s take it all the way back to 1995