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Sunday matinee hoops: Liberty look to take down the Aces

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Las Vegas Aces Practice Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Growing pains. We knew it was gonna be a tough go of it for the New York Liberty inside the wubble, and that came to pass as they lost again to the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday night before finally breaking the spell Friday night with a win over the Mystics. YES!

The opponent will be the Las Vegas Aces. Vegas is looking different from what we saw last year, but they’re still one of the best teams in basketball. They played the Washington Mystics on Wednesday and came away with a great win against the defending champs. They kept it going with another solid win on Friday night, this time against the Los Angeles Sparks.

Where to follow the game

YES and FOX Sports Go has us covered live. Tip off after 5 PM.

Injuries

Sabrina Ionescu is out of the bubble and in New York City to see an ankle specialist, presumably Dr. Martin O’Malley of the Hospital for Special Surgery. No word yet on next steps.

Liz Cambage is sitting the season out due to medical concerns. Kelsey Plum is out for the season with an Achilles injury.

The game

As someone who hasn’t gotten a proper haircut since February, I don’t have much room to judge Aces coach Bill Laimbeer. That said...

This is quite the look.

We’ve got a nice match-up on the perimeter tonight. It’s been a struggle for Kia Nurse as she gets further away from her ankle injury, but having her on the court is better than not having her. She’ll be matched up with Kayla McBride on the Aces. McBride is one of the league’s best shooters and is shooting a career best 43.8 percent from three point range this season. Having a shooter like McBride creates space for the Aces on the inside as opponents have to honor her three point prowess.

This season, the WNBA players are dedicating the season to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman from Kentucky that was killed by police in her home this spring (We discussed a special on Taylor produced by Kyrie Irving here). New Aces star Angel McCoughtry helped spearhead the initiative to have Taylor’s name on everyone’s jerseys this year. Here’s more from Jack Maloney of CBS Sports:

“We know that your jersey is so important, because it’s basically your personal brand, your jersey is who you are,” McCoughtry said. “People buy your jersey. They don’t buy your shorts, they don’t buy your headbands. I thought if we could put the names on there, that was a great way to advocate while we play.”

McCoughtry said Taylor’s family was “ecstatic” about the gesture, and she and other players are determined to make sure their partnership doesn’t stop when the basketball does. They intend to continue supporting the Breonna Taylor Foundation once they leave the bubble and the spotlight goes away.

On the court, McCoughtry has helped fill the void on offense caused by Cambage and Plum’s absences this year.

If there’s one thing we’ve noticed from most of the Liberty’s games this year, it’s that they’ve missed a lot of open threes. As it so happens, they made a season high 12 threes on Friday night against Washington. If you keep practicing good habits, the results will come.

Player to watch: A’ja Wilson

In addition to being a great basketball player, Wilson is a great podcaster as well! She and Minnesota Lynx guard Napheesa Collier host a podcast called “Tea with A & Phee,” and their latest episode featured the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant. Give it a listen:

On the court, Wilson is one of the W’s best players. She does all of her damage inside the three point line as she can score in the high and low post. She also does a great job of controlling the boards and for a team that runs as much as Vegas does, finishing out possessions with rebounds is crucial for them to get on the break (Vegas leads the W in defensive rebounding).

Wilson got her birthday off to a great start with a fantastic fourth quarter on Friday night against the Sparks and hopes to bring the good vibes to today’s game as well.

Kiah Stokes and Amanda Zahui B will have to slow Wilson down on the inside. Wilson is 15th in the league in minutes as she averages a shade under 31 a night. The duo has worked well on the inside and the Liberty will hope that they can slow Wilson down enough so they can pull off the upset.

From the Vault

Let’s revisit one of the wildest game winners I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Dearica Hamby.