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Liberty loses to Fever, 82-69, after travel nightmare

New York Liberty v Indiana Fever Photo by A.J. Mast/NBAE via Getty Images

Ya win some, ya lose some and some ya just leave on the tarmac at Indianapolis International Airport.

After a horrendous itinerary set them down in Indy Friday morning, the New York Liberty looked lost Friday night, losing to the Indianapolis Fever Friday night, 82-69. The lost to the cellar-dwellers put the Liberty record at 10-10. The Fever is now 3-16, having won their second straight after suffering through a 12-game losing streak.

As Sarah Valenzuela of the Daily News wrote, the New Yorkers’ road trip was a traveler’s — and player’s — nightmare.

The Liberty had a long last two days. They were initially scheduled to arrive in Indiana on Thursday. Tropical Storm Elsa, however, had the team delayed at the airport for more than five hours before their flight was inevitably canceled and they were sent home after 9 p.m. and told to return for another flight Friday morning. They didn’t land in Indianapolis until after 11 a.m. on Friday.

That was six hours before game time and it showed.

Walt Hopkins, the Liberty head coach, wouldn’t say his team was affected by the hectic itinerary, but he didn’t say it didn’t either.

“Hard to say. I really don’t know. ... I don’t know why we weren’t sharp. It’s very frustrating,” said the second-year coach.

Still, it was the Liberty who started out strong, going ahead 28-23 in the first quarter, with the New Yorkers’ top scorer, Betnijah Laney, putting up 13. The Fever quickly adjusted however and held Laney in check the rest of the game. She finished with 23.

Turnovers once again foiled the Liberty’s chances for success. They finished with 20. Laney led the team with seven, but Sabrina Ionescu, who had a tough outing, had six while Sami Whitcomb and Reshanda Gray had three each.

The Liberty offense which has saved the team in the past didn’t measure up this time around. Overall, they shot 39.4 percent and from three, a mere 26.1. Whitcomb, the team’s top 3-point shooter, hit only two of her seven attempts from deep and Ionescu, Laney and rookie Michaela Onyenwere all finished with 0-fors, missing eight three’s among them.

With 2:53 left in the third, Indiana had its largest lead, at 58-44. New York cut it to six with less than four minutes to go but got no closer.

Post-game, Liberty players offered no excuses.

“Look, we’re at the stage where everyone’s tired, everyone’s facing difficulties, everyone’s facing different challenges. For us as a group that’s not an OK excuse to not play as hard as we know we can play and not be as focused,” said Whitcomb

”It’s one thing if you don’t have energy, that’s fine. You can still give 100% of what you have,” Whitcomb added, “but for me, mentally we weren’t as locked in and that’s something we can all control. We know that. So I don’t think that that’s an excuse.”

For the Fever, point guard Danielle Robinson dominated with a final line of 18 points, three rebounds, five assists and two steals. Kelsey Mitchell, Indy’s best player this season, was high scorer with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

Sami Whitcomb to All-Star Game

Whitcomb got some good news on Friday. She’ll be competing in the WNBA All-Star Game’s 3-point shooting contest, part of the league’s mid-season classic, to be held July 14 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Whitcomb is shooting a career-and-team-high 44.7 percent from deep and leading the league in total three pointers made (55) in her first season with the Liberty. She is the team’s second leading scorer averaging a career-best 12.5 points per game.

What’s next?

The Liberty will be back in Brooklyn Sunday for the team’s annual Unity Game. They’ll host the league-leading Connecticut Sun at Barclays Center starting at 2 p.m. YES Network and ESPN3 will carry the game.

“The Liberty’s UNITY platform was created to shine a light on a broad range of issues affecting people of color in New York and throughout the country,” said Keia Clarke, Liberty CEO. “It is our hope that this year’s timely focus on inequities in healthcare will not only spark important dialogue but ultimately, inspire changes in how Black and Brown women are treated in our healthcare system.”

However, Sunday’s big game almost became part of the Liberty’s travel nightmare. More flight delays and suddenly, the team was looking at an early morning flight from Indianapolis to LaGuardia ... and five hour turnaround from arrival to game time!

At least one player took to Twitter to offer outrage at the schedule.

The schedule looked so bad — as did the image of the WNBA once again relegated to little sister mode — that Deadspin suggested that Sunday’s game be postponed.

[T]he league needs to reschedule the Liberty-Sun game, because it’s ludicrous to expect anyone to spend all this time stuck in airports, then roll in off the tarmac and try to play sports at an elite professional level — if they even make it back to New York in time to play.

That and some fan protests via Twitter apparently did the trick. At 2:17 p.m. Saturday, Jones tweeted out a change in plans.

No word on how the magic happened.

Brooklyn Liberty Brigade

Also on hand Sunday for their first WNBA appearance will be the Brooklyn Brigade.

Will Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb mimic Sean Marks and provide liquid refreshments to the Brigade? We shall see.