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Liberty look to spoil Mystics’ playoff hopes as season winds down

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New York Liberty v Washington Mystics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Two to go. The New York Liberty fought hard against the Indiana Fever, but couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth quarter and took the loss on Thursday night. This is the first leg of a back-to-back. They wrap up the season on Sunday against the Dallas Wings.

The opponent will be the Washington Mystics. It’s been a rocky season for the defending champions as injuries and close losses have derailed their championship hopes. They’re going down fighting after an incredibly impressive win against the Los Angeles Sparks Thursday evening and are within striking distance of getting into the playoffs.

Where to follow the game

NBA TV has us covered. Tip off after 12.

Injuries

Sabrina Ionescu (ankle) is out and done for the season. Same with Layshia Clarendon (back).

Stella Johnson and Aerial Powers are out as well.

The game

The Liberty won the first meeting in August.

Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Tina Charles as she is sitting this season out due to a medical exemption. However, she’s still doing good work in the community. Natalie Weiner profiled Charles in the New York Times and this quote from Swin Cash stood out:

“Tina can be shy, can be quiet, but she’s always understood her responsibility. It meant so much to her to let people know, ‘As a franchise player, you guys are going to see me. I want to lead in that regard.’”

When Charles returns next year, she and the rest of the Mystics figure to make a lot of noise.

With Clarendon out the final two games, Jazmine Jones and Paris Kea will run PG for Walt Hopkins’ squad. In the NBA and WNBA bubbles, it looks as if the stress and toll of being in that environment has taken its toll on the players. And for the Liberty in particular, the losses could make it extra stressful. Coach Hopkins is trying to manage that, and said:

“It’s something we haven’t done all year really, we’ve done a pretty remarkable job staying together. And we’re starting to see some little cracks, and so, it’s understandable, it’s human, it’s not anything that you know is hit the panic button or anything like that, it’s more like this could have happened a month ago. I think we’re seeing a little bit of factioning, so I’m going to have to step in and clean some of that out but that’s all part of it.”

With a young team like this, making sure everyone remains optimistic is of the utmost importance.

If there’s been one consistent theme with the Liberty this season, it’s been the turnovers. They lead the W in that category and on Thursday had more turnovers than assists. The Mystics are one of the better teams in the league at forcing turnovers so the Liberty may be down big early if they’re not careful.

Player to watch: Myisha Hines-Allen

If there’s anything good to take away from a retooling season, it’s the ability to find a diamond in the rough that will be a part of the future going forward. Hines-Allen didn’t get much burn her first two seasons in the league, but has been a revelation this year. Her scoring average has increased by over 14 points this season and she’s the runaway favoirte to win Most Improved Player this season. She can also stretch the floor and is shooting a cool 41.4 percent from three point range as well. When you luck into a good player like this, it makes everything feel better and for the Mystics, she’ll be someone that can lead the team in the future.

After not playing on Tuesday, Amanda Zahui B came off the bench on Thursday night to play around 15 minutes. It makes sense to get the youngsters more playing time over an established veteran as the season winds down, but Zahui B should be rewarded for sticking with it in a year of transition for the club.

From the Vault

Can’t wait to see Elena Delle Donne when she returns next season

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