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Liberty defeat Wings, 99-96, in franchise’s 400th win

Dallas Wings v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

After pulling out a comeback win against the Mystics on Saturday night, the New York Liberty defeated the Dallas Wings 99-96 Monday, earning a two-game win streak, their first since May.

Today’s win also marked the 400th victory for the Liberty franchise, now celebrating its 25th anniversary,

Both the Liberty and Wings held a 9-9 record entering the matchup. So New York improved to 10-9. Postgame, star point guard Sabrina Ionescu commented on the significance of reaching ten wins: “It’s huge and we know that. We know every game is important, especially leading into this break. We want to end strong, then continue to get better.”

Ionescu had herself a game on Monday, putting on a show of dazzling passes and touchdown lobs. She finished the outing with a double-double of 13 points and 12 assists (which ties her career-high) on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Post-game, she acknowledged the importance of just keeping the ball moving.

“Ball movement was a huge part, but I think it’s just figuring out what our strengths and weaknesses are... I think we did a great job with that tonight.”

The star of the show tonight, though, was Sami Whitcomb. Whitcomb, acquired from the Seattle Storm in February, led all scorers with 26 points on 6-of-11 shooting from three, helping the Liberty achieve a record of 15 made 3-pointers. The Libs connected on nearly half of the team’s total attempts. Whitcomb also showed off a complete game, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing four assists and notching three steals. New York is now 3-0 when Whitcomb scores at least 15 points in the game.

Betnijah Laney took it upon herself to advocate for Whitcomb competing in the All-Star game’s 3-point shootout in Las Vegas on July 14.

”She should definitely be a part of that. Her shot speaks for herself. If you look at her three-point shooting, she’s over 50%. If she’s not in the [3-point] contest, I’d be really surprised.”

Here’s Whitcomb’s highlights:

Whitcomb leads the WNBA in 3-point shooting, and that’s just the premiere part of her repertoire. In praising her, though, head coach Walt Hopkins focused on all the other stuff.

“She’s finding ways to impact the game outside of her shooting, which is so big because there are games where teams really key on her, which they should... I can’t say enough about her rebounding.”

Ionescu just kept it short and sweet: “Goodness gracious, she’s a good basketball player.”

Five Liberty players scored in double figures on Monday nights: Whitcomb, Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, Jazmine Jones and Reshanda Gray, proving that whenever New York gets going offensively, they win. In fact, they’re undefeated (3-0) when five or more players reach double digits in scoring.

Jones remains hot and Gray has become a quietly solid pickup for the Liberty as they wait for Natasha Howard to rehab from her meniscus injury. Gray’s been on and off the roster all season, but her spot on the team seems permanent after Kiah Stokes was waived last week. Gray has now scored 11 points with 6 rebounds in back-to-back games, her two appearances since once again re-joining the team.

Hopkins commented on Gray’s performance as well, complimenting her ability to catch passes (which Liberty bigs have struggled with all year): “She’s really got a couple of baseball gloves there attached to her arms. Nothing gets past her.”

“She’s experienced. She’s a veteran in this league,” Hopkins said of Gray. “Just her being her and bringing that energy, making smart plays. It’s really good for us.””She’s experienced. She’s a veteran in this league. Just her being her and bringing that energy, making smart plays. It’s really good for us.”

As previously mentioned, the Liberty set a franchise record of threes made with 15 against Dallas. This came in no small part due to Whitcomb’s six triples, but Ionescu and Jones each added three as well. Whitcomb was not especially surprised by the record: “”The 3-point shooting is a focal feature of our offense. When we’re knocking down shots... it creates so many opportunities for us.”

Here are the game highlights:

For Dallas, shooting guard Arike Ogunbowale became the third fastest player in WNBA history to reach 1,500 points when she scored her fifth point in the first quarter. She finished with 12 points but shot only 4-of-12 overall and 1-of-4 from deep. Satou Sabally, Ionescu’s college teammate at Oregon, led the Wings with 16 points.

The Liberty will face the Indiana Fever next in their third-to-last game before the Olympic break on Friday, July 9. It will be Indiana and New York’s final matchup this year, going down in the Hoosier state. The game is slated for 7 p.m. and will air on NBA TV.