The New York Liberty suffered their fifth straight defeat in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Sparks, 96-70. With the loss, the Liberty falls to 2-17 in the Bradenton “wubble” while the Sparks improve to 15-5 and continue their chase for a top-two seed in the upcoming WNBA playoffs.
The Sparks trio of Candance Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Riquna Williams, finished with a combined 54 points, and L.A. had full control throughout the game. The Liberty were very banged up heading into the matchup.
On top of Sabrina Ionescu, who continues to rehab a left ankle sprain outside the “wubble,” the team did not play Amanda Zahui B (coach’s decision), who’s rebounding and productive scoring play a huge role for the New Yorkers. Rookie Jazmine Jones didn’t play either. With only nine active players, Jocelyn Willoughby stepped up for the Liberty and was the story of the game.
The 6’0” Newark native had a breakout performance, finishing with a career-high 21 points, three rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes of play. Willoughby, who the Liberty traded for on Draft Night, shot the lights out for the Liberty, going a perfect 5-of-5 from deep and 7-of-8 overall in the loss.
Following the game, coach Walt Hopkins and Kia Nurse, who serves as the veteran on the second-youngest team in the WNBA, praised Willoughby for her breakout performance.
Willoughby spoke about her performance post-game.
“We’re trying different things…it’s exciting. It keeps other teams on their toes. As we grow individually, the different lineups will continue. It will be a challenge for other teams. That’ll be something to look forward to,” Willoughby said of new rotations Hopkins has been trying.
“Change is hard. I don’t think anyone grows without going through hard things. As a team we’ve had so much adversity. Sabrina (Ionescu) going out, the circumstances of the bubble. I think we’ve had growth.”
For the Liberty, their season is essentially over other than giving their rookies a chance show off their skills. Following Saturday’s loss to the Phoenix Mercury, the Libs became the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention and for the second straight year will have the best chance at the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft, whose date is yet to be determined.