I'd say that this year has already been a rousing success, right? The New York Liberty played their first road game of the season on Sunday with a nice win against the Indiana Fever. The win was also notable as Walt Hopkins' club matched their entire win total from last year.
Now, back home in Brooklyn, the city’s own WNBA team will try to do something special on a lot of levels. In a number of ways, this is a defining if early moment.
The opponent will be the Minnesota Lynx. 'Sota has been one of the elite WNBA franchises and are hoping to make it to their eleventh straight playoffs. They got off to a bumpy start by losing a close one to the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night.
Where to follow the game
YES app and ESPN3 on the viewing side. Tip off after 7 PM.
For the Liberty, Jocelyn Willoughby is out for the year with her Achilles tear. Leannah Odom didn't play on Sunday due to an Achilles injury. No word on if she plays tonight. Natasha Howard is overseas and there’s no timetable for her return.
For the Lynx, Rennia Davis is out indefinitely with a foot fracture. Napheesa Collier is out as she needs to continue testing negatively for COVID so she can suit up (she played overseas). Natalie Achonwa is questionable with a knee injury.
Running the show. Walt Hopkins has given Sabrina Ionescu the keys to the offense and so far, so good. Ionescu didn’t have the greatest day on Sunday as she committed eight turnovers, but she was in her third city in three days as she had traveled to the Hall of Fame in Springfield to watch the induction ceremony of her friend and idol, Kobe Bryant. She didn’t attribute that to her poor showing, but we can still cut her some slack. Now that Ionescu won’t be traveling back and forth, look for her to get back on it and put together a good game.
Among tonight’s milestones is this: It will be Ionescu’s third game of the season. Last year, the overall No. 1 pick didn’t make it to the end of her third game. She severely sprained her ankle and didn’t play again in the “wubble.”
Taking up any scoring slack for NY will be Betnijah Laney. Laney led the team in scoring again on Sunday with a game high 20 points (after a 30-point effort in Game 1!). The Rutgers product provides a solid scoring option next to Ionescu and perhaps most importantly, a credible 3-point threat. As she’s expanded her range throughout her pro career, her success from deep has improved each year and with Hopkins’ offense so reliant on the long ball, having someone like Laney can do wonders for the team. She is a bucket, after all.
The Lynx made a solid pickup in the offseason to add some depth on the perimeter. Kayla McBride came over from Las Vegas and hopes to add some added punch from three point range. The Lynx were third in three point efficiency in the W last year and a career 36.8 percent like McBride will add some scoring punch.
The Lynx are guaranteed to be a tough out come playoff time. Here’s Neil Olstad from Canis Hoopus:
If they can consistently generate efficient half court offense they will be a scary team. Add in the elite coaching and leadership Cheryl Reeve brings to the table and it could be a special year in Minnesota.
A win tonight will help the Liberty surpass their win total from ALL of last season. What better way to do it than against one of the banner franchises in basketball.
Lynx legend Maya Moore still isn’t coming back to basketball any time soon, but she was profiled in the New York Times. Give it a read.
Last year, with no Ionescu and a roster that featured six rookies, the Lynx beat the Liberty by 26 and 30 points. Hopkins, the former Lynx assistant, would certainly like to get some revenge for those drubbings.
Player to watch: Sylvia Fowles
One of the game's greatest rebounders is back and 100 percent. A calf injury ruined the last part of her season and limited her effectiveness in Minnesota’s playoff run last year. Now that she’s back, she’ll anchor Minnesota’s attack on both sides of the ball. She’s the W’s all time leading rebounder and fourth all time in blocks. Whenever she decides to call it a career, a spot in Springfield will be waiting for her at the Hall of Fame.
The Liberty have mentioned that they’re going to need to do some work on the boards, and tonight’s going to be a big challenge in that regard. Kylee Shook will start at center and the combo of she and Reshanda Gray will look to slow Fowles down. It’s gonna take a team effort for Hopkins’ club to win the board battle and with how they’ve played so far, look for them to put up a spirited battle on the glass.
From the Vault
Our old friend from Minnesota got inducted into the Hall of Fame over the weekend, so let’s sit back and watch Kevin Garnett's induction speech. Listen for the shoutout of Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. (No shoutouts for Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo!)
More reading: Canis Hoopus