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Liberty look to go 4-0 vs Mystics as they add to City Game’s resurgence

Chicago Sky v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Good vibes. Good energy. Just straight up good. The New York Liberty played host to the Minnesota Lynx at Barclays on Tuesday and put together a great all around team effort and came away with an excellent win. It was their third win in a row and most importantly, they surpassed their win total from the wubble last summer.

New York basketball is in great hands. As the city opens up, the city game is thriving with the Nets and Knicks in the playoffs and the Liberty rising.

The opponent tonight will be the Washington Mystics. It’s been a rough start for the 2019 champs as they got blown out by 21 points on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Mercury.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. Party gets started after 7 p.m.

Injuries

Jocelyn Willoughby and Leonna Odom are out due to Achilles injuries. Natasha Howard is gearing up to make her debut, but is out as she just got back from international ball. Asia Durr, who was probably hit the hardest of any pro athlete in the pandemic, remains at home recuperating from COVID-19.

Elena Delle Donne is out with a back injury while Alysha Clark is out with a foot injury. Myisha Hines-Allen is overseas so she won’t be playing tonight.

The game

We’re starting with some roster news. It was reported late Wednesday night by Kate Fagan and confirmed on Thursday morning by the team that they have waived former All Star Layshia Clarendon. Everyone took notice when Clarendon wasn’t in the rotation and with the impending return of Howard combined with a tight roster crunch, Clarendon’s spot became tenuous. Clarendon helped keep the Liberty afloat during the “wubble” and their leadership, bravery, and excellence will be missed by the team.

We’ll be meeting an old friend of ours. Tina Charles didn’t play last season in the “wubble” after she was traded from the Liberty to DC earlier in 2020. Now that she’s in DC, she’ll be anchoring the inside attack for Mike Thibault’s club. Charles is one of the better low post scorers in basketball and has always been a tough player to keep off of the boards. Sylvia Fowles had a great stat line on Tuesday night, but that slightly obscures the great work the Liberty did in the second half against her. Kylie Shook and newly resigned Kiah Stokes will man the middle for Walt Hopkins’ squad and if they can limit Charles, they’ll shut down a major cog in Washington’s attack.

It’s playoff weekend here in NYC as the Nets host the Brooklyn Celtics at Barclays on Saturday night while the Knicks host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. New York basketball is in great hands and with the Liberty off to their best start in years, they can ingratiate themselves to the community the same way their peers on the men’s side have. Here’s a snippet of a great story Jackie Powell wrote about the Libs for Sports Illustrated:

The goal for this young team won’t be only taking care of the ball, spreading the floor and playing aggressive defense. For the 25th Liberty roster, this season is going to be about how they discover and then embody the city that they get to play for on the court.

After a three-year hiatus from playing within the five boroughs, the Liberty must be able to show New York why they matter. The Liberty need to remind their city of the role they play in New York. They need to prove why they’re indispensable.

A good young team that plays hard every night and forms an intimate connection with the community? We know the feeling!

She keeps on keeping on. Betnijah Laney was outstanding once again for the Liberty as her 20 points helped the Liberty stay ahead of the Lynx. Lynx is a walking bucket and a capable defender as well, which is something the Liberty lacked last year. Good teams need multiple players that can get their own shot and Laney is stepping up to be that for the Liberty.

Then, there’s Sabrina! Sabrina Ionescu has only played six pro games including one in the “wubble” where she severely sprained her ankle but in those six, she’s had a 33-point game, a buzzer-beater in the Liberty’s Brooklyn debut and a triple-double.

It’s been a rocky start to the season for the Mystics’ Leilani Mitchell. She hasn’t scored a point yet this season and has gone 0-11 from the field to start the new year off. It won’t be any easier for Mitchell as she’ll see Sami Whitcomb on the other side. Whitcomb came to the team along with Howard over the winter, and she has been excellent on defense thus far. Perimeter defense was a bugaboo for the Liberty last year and having a vet like Whitcomb will do wonders for the team.

Player to watch: Natasha Cloud

Similar to Charles, Cloud did not play in the wubble last season. Now that she’s back, she hopes to keep the team afloat. She scored 18 points and did her best to keep the team in it against the Mercury, but it wasn’t enough. Cloud won’t be a high usage player, but she’s been good for a long time and is someone that contributes to a winning culture that has been built in DC.

How do you follow up a historic night? On Tuesday night, Sabrina Ionescu collected the first triple double in Liberty franchise history and had the basketball world abuzz with the show she put on at Barclays. Most importantly for Ionescu, she only turned it over three times on Tuesday. For a player as gifted as she is, you want her to make the most out of every possession imaginable. She has excellent range from deep, has already shown herself to be someone you want to have the ball with the game on the line, and has outstanding court vision. New York is lucky to have her and as she continues to grow, she can help the Liberty reach new heights.

What can she do for an encore? How about joining Chris Paul in State Farm commercials for starters?

From the Vault

The last hooper to get a 50/40/90 season was Elena Delle Donne, and she won a championship to finish up her amazing year. The Nets’ Kyrie Irving would like to have a similar storybook ending to his 50/40/90 season as well

More reading: Bullets Forever