Coming off two 20-point losses, it was the Liberty’s turn to deliver a beat-down of their own, and they did just that Saturday night in Atlanta against the Dream with a 101-78 rout at Gateway Center Arena.
The Liberty improved to an 8-8 record on the season with the win. It was the first 20+ point victory for New York since 2018, and it’s clear the change of fortunes was a relief for the New Yorkers.
As Betnijah Laney said: “I think it was good for us, I think we definitely needed it.”
Joe Tsai agreed...
After a post-game box score adjustment, Sami Whitcomb officially notched a 30-point game, a career high for the veteran. Whitcomb, a two-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm was acquired back in February with Natasha Howard from the Storm. Howard remains out with a strained MCL.
Postgame, head coach Walt Hopkins not only praised Whitcomb’s performance but advocated for her All-Star candidacy: “If [the fans] are not considering [voting for her], they need to. Sami has been an integral part of the turnaround we’ve experienced...she has been our most consistent player...a phenomenal leader and teammate.”
Whitcomb, on the other hand, was a little more modest about her chances: “(Getting nominated) is probably a little ridiculous, but it would be great.”
Whitcomb finished 10-of-16, including 7-of-12 from deep. She also added six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Here are her highlights for the evening:
Sabrina Ionescu made her return to the starting lineup against the Dream Saturday and scored 10 points on 60.0 percent (3-5) shooting from the field, dishing a game-high eight assists and grabbing six rebounds as well, an underrated skill of the second year point guard. Postgame, Hopkins commented on her performance: “I thought she did a great job capitalizing. Eight assists. Did a good job overall moving the ball...When she does that it makes us a good team.”
Laney continued her scoring ways on Saturday night, notching 28 points on 8-for-14 shooting as well as 9-for-11 at the charity stripe. Laney has scored 20+ points in 11 of her 16 games played this season. Last year’s Most Improved Player in the WNBA is now averaging 19.9 for the season.
The Liberty were without Rebecca Allen in Atlanta. She was scratched just before the game with plantar fasciitis. Hopkins said she had been playing through pain all week. Fellow Aussie Whitcomb noted how missing Allen affected the team: “Not having Bec was a really big loss for us...all of us felt we needed to step up...we needed this. We worked really hard...(after) two not very good losses. We know we’re better than that..”
On defense, the Liberty did a masterful job of limiting their best players. Courtney Williams — who hit the game winner against New York at Barclays in their last matchup — was held to 12 points and shot 5-of-17 from the field. Hopkins said that changing up the pick and roll coverage on Williams, such as going under some ball screens and over others, kept her off balance and limited her productivity.
Here are the game highlights:
The Liberty will face the Dream again on Tuesday, June 29. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN3.
Michaela Onyewere, the Liberty’s surprising rookie who had 18 points, said the team is determined to replicate Saturday’s performance: “Hopefully we’ll come out with that same energy, same focus.”