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Liberty come home to start two game series vs the Storm

Seattle Storm v Connecticut Sun - 2021 Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

A good battle, but not all the way there. The New York Liberty returned to action hoping to bust the Minnesota Lynx’s seven game winning streak. They were competitive most of the night, but Minnesota pulled away late and handed the Liberty their third straight loss on Sunday night. The road will get tougher from here.

The opponent tonight will be the Seattle Storm. The reigning WNBA Champions got a little bit more hardware after they came away with the Commissioner’s Cup against the Connecticut Sun last week. They officially returned to the regular season schedule on Sunday and lost a close one in overtime to the Chicago Sky.

Where to follow the game

CBS Sports Network has us covered tonight. Tip off after 7 p.m. ET

Injuries

Jocelyn Willoughby is out due to her Achilles injury. Jazmine Jones is out with a knee injury.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan is out. Sue Bird got Sunday off to rest from the Olympics. She is expected to be out tonight as well. Breanna Stewart will be taking the night off to be with her partner as they welcomed their first child, Ruby, into the world. She’ll be back on Friday.

The game

Welcome back, Natasha Howard. The Liberty star returned from her MCL injury that limited her to only three games in the first half of the season. She came back with a vengeance and scored a super efficient 30 points on 13-22 from the field. Having Howard back opens the Liberty offense up a great deal and gives them more options and flexibility in who gets shot attempts, how they run the offense, etc. Seattle will counter with the duo of Mercedes Russell and Ezi Magbegor. As a team, the Storm are middle of the pack in rebounding, but their center duo are the two best on the team. The Liberty have been one of the weakest rebounding teams in the WNBA this year and having Howard back should help them immensely on that front.

It’s another reunion tonight at Barclays. Sami Whitcomb will see her former mates and like Howard, won two rings with Seattle. She’s been a plus contributor

Three point shooting will play a key role in tonight’s result. The Liberty only took 20 three pointers against Minnesota, which was tied for their fewest attempted in a game this season. As a team, the Storm only allow 20 threes attempted per game and a 31.1 percent efficiency.

With Stewart out for one more night, Katie Lou Samuelson will get another opportunity to showcase her skills. She was due to join Team USA in the 3x3 competition, but had to miss the Tokyo games after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID. She spoke about how she processed all of her feelings about missing the games with the Hartford Courant:

“I think the biggest thing for me is not bottling it all up, and talking to people I need to, reaching out to my therapist when I need to quicker. A couple years ago, I wouldn’t have done this. I would have kept it all in and try to bottle everything up. But I’ve been able to talk to my family, my boyfriend, my therapist, and that’s been really helpful to just get those emotions out instead of letting it all kind of stay inside.

“For me, that is huge coming from being someone who stayed so far away from trying to seek help to being able to rely on others and count on people. I’m really proud of myself for how I’ve been able to handle everything and just move forward.”

In moments like that, it’s important to turn to your support system and lean on them to get you through it.

Player to watch: Jewell Loyd

Getting to the Olympics is such an honor and an opportunity to play and learn from the game’s greats. Loyd played around 16 minutes a night in Tokyo and while her percentages weren’t the greatest, getting to rep the USA as they won gold was an amazing experience for her. With Stewart and Bird out on Sunday, Loyd took 30 shots (and 11 free throws) against the Sky as she was tasked with the responsibility of generating offense for the champs.

Sabrina Ionescu had a good showing against the Lynx. The Liberty star had 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in her 30 minutes of action Sunday night. She and Howard were able to connect on a few baskets and their ability to get connected in pick and rolls will be key to Walt Hopkins’ plans for the second half. Their chemistry will help decide if the team can sneak into the playoffs and maybe even get a home game at Barclays.

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