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Liberty fall to Aces in second straight loss, 94-82

Las Vegas Aces v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

In a game that was definitely closer than the final score reflects, the New York Liberty lost their second straight game Thursday, 94-82, to the Las Vegas Aces. This is the first of three meetings this month for the Liberty and Aces. New York’s record drops to 5-3 for this young WNBA season and Las Vegas improves to 6-3.

Betnijah Laney led the team in scoring with 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field, extending her streak of 20+ points to eight games to start the season, one short of the all-time WNBA record. Laney also had five rebounds and three assists on the night.

Sabrina Ionescu had an odd line in the box score. The Liberty point guard finished with five points, but nine rebounds and an equal number of assists. She shot only 2-of-13 overall, 1-of-6 from deep, her second straight game with shooting and turned the ball over four times.

After being outscored by 14 points in a disaster of a first quarter, the Liberty were able to fight back in the third - fueled by 14 consecutive points from Rebecca Allen in the period. Allen put up 15 points in the game.

Postgame, here’s what head coach Walt Hopkins had to say about Allen’s hot performance: “Yeah, you know, this was a really great game for Bec. MNot only the shooting and the scoring, but her defense and the trust that we were able to have in her because of that, she got it up, she guarded guards. Bec was really, really big for us tonight.”

Slow starts have become a trend for the Liberty as of late, one that Allen is confident they’ll be able to buck in the upcoming matchup against the Connecticut Sun:

“All our focus needs to be on how we start games, for sure. And it’s coming out with that sense of energy from the get-go and playing when we’re playing fast.”

After missing the start of the year with an achilles injury, forward Leonna Odom made her first appearance tonight for the Liberty and had an immediate impact. Right after checking in she blocked Riquna Gray’s layup attempt. Odom finished the game with seven points on 3-of-3 shooting, including one make from deep. What impressed both the coaching staff and her teammates most, though, was Odom’s impact defensively.

Hopkins was clearly unhappy ih the officiating tonight, especially towards the disparity in free throws attempted by both squads. The Aces shot 29 free throws compared to the Liberty’s nine at the charity stripe. Hopkins berated officials all night long, eventually earning himself a technical foul in the closing minute of the game.

Postgame, Hopkins declined to reveal what he said to the officials that earned him the tech, but noted that he consistently reminded them all game of the ever-expanding free throw differential.

A tipping point with the officiating came with 3:12 left in the fourth quarter on what appeared to be a phantom foul call on Kiah Stokes when the MVP A’ja Wilson rose up for a turnaround baseline jumper. The official on the other side of the court blew the whistle and the Liberty bench - and fans at home - reacted in disgust.

For the Aces, A’ja Wilson had a stellar performance with a season-high 30 points on 52.9 percent (9-17) shooting from the field and a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line. The Liberty did a good job of limiting her co-star Liz Cambage. to 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting, though.

The attendance at Barclays Center was listed at 1,389, the most since New York State eased regulations on arenas and stadiums.

Here are the game highlights:

The Liberty will face off against the Connecticut Sun on Saturday June 5 at 7pm. The game will be broadcast on YES.