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Liberty look to bounce back vs. the Sun

Washington Mystics v Connecticut Sun Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

A cold streak? The New York Liberty went into Thursday night's game hoping to bounce back from their overtime loss to the Atlanta Dream last weekend. Unfortunately for them, the Las Vegas Aces were rude guests and handed them a loss on Thursday night.

The opponent tonight will be the Connecticut Sun. Once again, the Sun find themselves near the top of the standings and will be a tough out come playoff time. They last played on Tuesday and beat the Aces at home.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. Tip off after 7 p.m. Yes, that means a conflict between Nets-Bucks playoff series, playing at Barclays Center and the Liberty-Sun regular season game at Mohegan Sun in Ucasville, Connecticut.


Natasha Howard and Jocelyn Willoughby are out.

Alyssa Thomas will likely miss this game with her Achilles injury.

The game

Curt Miller got himself in hot water recently. The Sun coach was arguing for calls in a game against the Aces and called Liz Cambage 300 pounds. The league wound up fining and suspending him for one game. He did wind up apologizing to Cambage for his comments, so hopefully he learned something from this ordeal.

For those keeping track at home, this is a Commissioner’s Cup game. And yes, it’s still confusing as hell. We’ll figure it out one day.

So here’s something concerning. After the loss to Vegas on Thursday, coach Walt Hopkins had this to say about Sabrina Ionescu and her recent struggles:

“I don’t know if it’s mobility, I don’t know if it’s pain, but it’s pretty clear to me, movement-wise, that something’s not right. It could just be sore. As simple as it being sore and it really hurts. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing.”

For as mesmerizing as she’s been, she’s still a second year player that’s looking to adjust to the level of play in the W. If she’s healthy, she’ll be able to counter the adjustments the league is making against her. Even with her recent shooting woes, Ionescu has continued to keep her teammates involved and sets them up for quality shot attempts. When one thing isn’t there, you have to rely on your other skills.

It’s not often a high volume shooter has a higher three point percentage than overall field goal percentage. But that’s where DeWanna Bonner finds herself these days. On the year, the former two time All Star is averaging 17 points a night on a .403/.429/.886 shooting split. The .429 represents a career best from three point range and if she’s able to stretch the floor from deep, it will open things up on the inside for the Sun.

If she keeps up the 20 point streak and the Liberty keep stacking up W’s, Betnijah Laney might snag her fair share of MVP votes. Over at Swish Appeal, Eric Nemchock took an interesting look at Laney’s rise and wrote:

Of course, Laney still has a very, very long way to go before she reaches the consistent greatness the aforementioned players are known for. Regardless, there are two main points to be drawn here. For one, to be as productive as Laney has been since the start of 2020 is a rare enough feat, and with every 20-point performance she puts up in her new Liberty jersey, her Most Improved Player campaign is looking less and less like a fluke.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Laney was able to transform her game into that of a high-usage, No. 1 scoring option in virtually no time at all. Sure, there’s something to be said for a change of scenery, but unlike players like Parker, Moore and Catchings, Laney did not seem destined for WNBA stardom right out of the gate. It’s extremely atypical for a player to grow from an offensive liability into an All-WNBA and MVP candidate in fewer than two seasons, especially when her ceiling had never been projected as such in the first place.

As Ionescu looks to get her shot back in form, having a number one scoring option like Laney will help keep the team afloat.

Player to watch: Jonquel Jones

When we last saw Jones, she was third in the 2019 MVP balloting and led the Sun to the Finals where they narrowly lost to the Washington Mystics. Jones is back in her MVP groove as her 20.6 points (6th in the W) and 10 rebounds (tops in the W) are helping Connecticut stay ahead of their peers. Jones does most of her damage by the rim, but is shooting a career best 48.8 percent from three point range this season. As the game of basketball has stretched further and further out, we can see it in Jones’ game as well. Her three point attempts have increased each season she’s been in the W and for opponents, defending a star that can hurt you from everywhere on the court place an incredible strain on your team.

You would think Kylee Shook will get more than 5:18 of playing time tonight. The Sun are the best rebounding team in the W this year and their size up and down the roster makes them incredibly difficult to challenge. Kiah Stokes got the lion’s share of minutes for the Liberty against the Aces and grabbed 13 rebounds in her 31 minutes of action. The Liberty lost the rebounding battle by 13 to Vegas and if that happens again, they’ll find themselves having to dig out of another hole.

From the Vault

Barclays Center is busy tonight as the hometown Brooklyn Nets open up their second round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Last time they were this deep in the playoffs, this happened

More reading: Swish Appeal