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Liberty struggle in fourth quarter, fall to Aces in ‘wubble’, 80-63

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Liberty fought hard all afternoon, but one bad quarter made the difference. New York lost their 13th game in 15 outings Saturday against the Las Vegas Aces, 80-63. The Liberty also didn’t have Sabrina Ionescu, Megan Walker, and Joyner Holmes.

With the loss, New York falls to 2-13 on the shortened season with seven games remaining while Las Vegas clinches a ‘wubble’ playoff berth. The Liberty’s game Thursday vs. the Wings was postponed as part of NBA/WNBA protests. Ironically, that game was supposed to the Liberty’s annual UNITY game dedicated to social justice. The team issued a statement saying the game will be rescheduled.

Entering the final quarter of play Saturday, the two teams were tied up at 56, but the Aces looked like a fresh team, clamping up on the defensive end while their offense, led by WNBA MVP candidate A’ja Wilson, followed. Las Vegas outscored New York 24-7 in the fourth quarter.

Paris Kea, who was signed after Ionescu’s ankle injury, led New York with 14 points in 18 minutes off the bench. The second year guard ended the loss shooting 4-of-6 from deep and 5-of-7 overall to go along with three assists and one rebound. The 5’9” guard had 11 in the second quarter...

Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins gave Kea high praise as a spark on and off the court. As for Kea, like Hopkins told her before the season, she has taken advantage of her opportunity to earn minutes, which she noted following the loss..

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Amanda Zahui B had a dominant game on the boards, ending with a Liberty franchise-record 21 rebounds to go along with six points in a team-high 34 minutes of play.

But when it came time for Zahui B to answer questions about her performance, she declined and instead spoke of larger issues...

As a team, the Liberty finished 9-of-27 (33 percent) from deep while going 22-of-66 (33 percent) from the field, and 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) from the charity strike. Turnovers played a role in the loss with New York finishing with 19 turnovers.

Unlike their previous two losses, the Liberty did not fall behind early. Following a quick 4-0 run by the Aces, Kiah Stokes hit a 27-foot three to put them on the board. Both teams traded baskets throughout the first, concluded with a pull-up jump shot by Jackie Young of Las Vegas to put the Aces up 19-18 heading into the second.

Both teams did not shoot the ball well in the first half. Despite the The Aces outscored the Liberty 20-17 in the second quarter the end the first half, the Liberty remained focused and in the game, looking for revenge. New York headed to the locker room down four points.

Kea led all scorers with 11 points, going 3-of-4 from deep off the bench. Zahui B. snagged a league-high 13 rebounds in the first half, which made a huge difference. As a team, the Liberty ended the half shooting 30 percent from the field, going 5-of-12 from deep. Despite a strong first-half effort, New York coughed up 10 turnovers at the half.

The third quarter was a back-and-forth battle with both teams trading baskets. New York played with higher energy and did a good job balancing the scoring. The Liberty continued to restrict Wilson of space and limit her shot opportunities on the defensive end.

As the third-quarter buzzer sounded, Clarendon and Kea led the team with 11 points each followed by Stokes with 10 points. Zahui continued to dominate the boards, ending the third with 19 rebounds to go with 6 points. The third quarter ended with the game tied up at 56.

The fourth quarter was a different story sparked by a familiar Liberty killer Wilson. Las Vegas held a 13-0 scoring un up till the 5:24 mark, snapped by a Stokes jump shot. Wilson continued to heat up late for the Aces. The Aces did not take their foot off the gas pedal throughout the final quarter of play, outscoring the Liberty 24-7.

The Liberty look to win for the third time when they face the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, September 1.