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In big win, Liberty stage 20-point comeback, beat Mystics, get back to .500

Washington Mystics v New York Liberty Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

It was all good for the New York Liberty at Barclays Center Saturday.

The New York Liberty defeated the Washington Mystics 82-79 in their first win at Barclays Center since May 24. Moreover, New York trailed by as many as 20 points against Washington before pulling out the win, marking the first time a WNBA team has completed a 20+ point comeback since 2019.

“Comeback wins are tough, home or on the road and being down 20 and 18 at halftime, finding a way,” Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said post-game. “It was pretty special. It’s fun to watch.”

The victory improves New York’s record to 9-9 while the Mystics fall to 7-10. The Liberty got their revenge on Washington, who handed New York their first loss of the season back in May.

The game also marked New York’s first win against Tina Charles since trading their franchise cornerstone in the 2020 offseason. Several of the players received in the Charles trade had big nights, including Jaz Jones.

“It was huge to be able to come out and get a win against a very good team,” said Sabrina Ionescu who finished with 15 points, five boards and five assists in 26 minutes. “But I think it more importantly, just showed us that this is the way that we need to play in order to win games in this league.”

Unsurprisingly, the newly-named All-Star Betnijah Laney led the Libs with 19 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. Laney also added three assists and three rebounds. Today marks Laney’s 17th time scoring in double figures through her first 18 games as a member of the Liberty. She is currently the only player in the W to average 19.0+ points and 5.0+ assists per game.

Ionescu was instrumental to the Liberty comeback on Saturday. Her connections with Reshanda Gray (who is back with the team after Kiah Stokes was waived) down the stretch proved vital.

Postgame, Walt Hopkins specified how Ionescu was improving since coming back from injury: “It was really about her making the necessary adjustment in the PNR. She’s been too passive. High dribble, standing straight up... adding the component of going downhill, attacking to get to the line. She’s done very well.”

Ionescu has been on a minutes restriction of around 25 minutes a game as she recovers from ankle soreness, an overhang from her season-ending sprain in the “wubble” last year.

Jazmine Jones tied her season-high of 17 points on Saturday, with (4-of-9) from the field, 2-of-3) from behind the arc, as well as a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe and five rebounds.

Jones was one player drafted with draft picks coming back in the Tina Charles trade. Postgame, Btenijah Lney complimented her teammate’s effort: “The intensity she brings to the game, it’s really contagious. When Jaz comes in being aggressive and playing hard, it rubs off on all of us. She wants to play hard for all of us & it makes us play hard for each other.”

Liberty rookie DiDi Richards exited the game after a scary play where she seemed uneasy walking. The team ruled her out of the game with a neck sprain. Postgame, Hopkins said there is “no official diagnosis” for her yet.

Richards offered an update on her status on Twitter:

The Liberty have hurt by injuries this season. Asia Durr, the Liberty’s No. 2 pick in 2019, is still recovering from a severe case of COVID-19 and unlikely to play this year. Similarly, Joyce Willoughby, taken in the 2020 Draft, is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Natasha Howard, the three-time WNBA champ acquired in an off-season sign-and-trade, is likely to remain inactive till after the Olympics.

The emotion of the comeback played out post-game with a tweet by Jones — and retweet by the Liberty’s co-owner...

Jones was referring to this play that sent her hurdling into the stands and helped ignite the Liberty comeback.

A number of Liberty players spoke of the Barclays Center fans sticking with the team and not leaving the arena even when their favorites were down 20. The announced crowd, however, was only 1,618, an indication that COVID-19 is still keeping some fans at home.

As for the Mystics, Charles had an excellent performance in her own right, scoring a game-high 31 points on 13-of-24 shooting and another game-high of 16 rebounds. No other Washington player even scored in double digits.

Here are the game highlights:

The Liberty will play next on Monday, July 5 when they face the Dallas Wings at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7pm and will air on the YES Network.