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Liberty go cold, lose second game of Dream mini-series, 73-69, in Atlanta

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Dale Zanine/NBAE via Getty Images

After winning in an wire-to-wire blowout on Saturday, the New York Liberty tipped off once again against the Atlanta Dream Tuesday evening. This time, the offense abandoned New York and the Liberty lost a close battle, 73-69, in Georgia.

The Liberty are now 8-9, cooling off after a 5-1 open to the season.

The game was characterized by cold offensive stretches for the Liberty. In the first half, they went 12 minutes without a field goal, then at the end of game went another four minutes without scoring. Solid defensive play kept the Dream in the game.

“I know that they’re pretty disappointed,” Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins said post-game. “We held them to 35 percent [shooting] and lost. It’s frustrating.”

Betnijah Laney, who’s likely to be named a WNBA All-Star on Wednesday, finished with 16 points, five rebounds and seven assists but at game end missed a game-tying layup with 25 seconds left and turned the ball as well.

“I thought Betnijah carried us,” Hopkins said. “It’s hard for me to speak on that last possession because I think we’re not even in that position without the way she played.”

Laney, the sixth highest scorer in the WNBA, went an uncharacteristic 7-of-19 from the field, including 0-of-5 from deep. Still, the Rutgers product was the Liberty’s leading scorer for the 16th time in 17 games.

It wasn’t just Laney. Overall, the Libs went 24-of-60. But the big problem was the dramatic late game collapse. New York was up 69-65 with 4:02 left, but then went scoreless for the rest of the game, costing them the season series. Postgame, Leaonna Odom commented on the cold stretch: “They just ramped up the pressure. We didn’t handle it as well as we drilled it in possible, and that’s what happened.”

Sabrina Ionescu, who played a little less than 29 minutes, four more than a planned minutes restriction, finished with six points, six rebounds and an assist. Sami Whitcomb, who had a career-high 30 piece vs. the Dream Saturday, had 11 points, taking only nine shots. Liberty rookie Michaela Onyenwere had 13.

As for the Dream, Courtney Williams led all scorers with 18 points on 8-of-17) shooting, had five rebounds and a team-high four assists. Limiting her was key to New York’s win on Saturday, but the Liberty were unable to replicate their previous defensive success.

Another contributor for Atlants was Crystal Bradford, who tallied a career-high in points with 14 on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of- from distance to accompany her seven rebounds.

Here are the game highlights:

Liberty center Kiah Stokes was a late scratch vs. Atlanta. Her absence, the Liberty said, was due to “personal reasons.” Hopkins said post-game, “We’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

The Liberty will next play next against the Washington Mystics - and former Liberty legend Tina Charles - on Saturday, July 3 back at Barclays Center. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

The WNBA goes on Olympic break July 15 for four weeks.