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Liberty look to bounce back vs. Sparks ... But Hurricane Henri interfering

Atlanta Dream v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Storms are difficult to weather. The New York Liberty put up a good fight, but the defending WNBA Champions were too much to handle and the Seattle Storm had a dominant second half en route to a 16 point victory on Friday night at Barclays Center.

And after losing to one storm, out of Seattle, the Liberty will be battling another one, out of the Caribbean, on Sunday. Late Saturday night, the team announced that the game will be played without fans or media after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency.

The opponent today will be the Los Angeles Sparks. Head coach Derek Fisher has his team fighting back into the playoff race and are within striking distance of eighth place. They helped their cause immensely with a last second win over the reeling Atlanta Dream on Thursday night in LA.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. Brunch and basketball so the party’s getting started after 2 PM.

Injuries

Jazmine Jones didn’t play on Friday is listed as questionable. Reshanda Gray has been away from the team the past few days and is listed as questionable.

Chiney Ogwumike is still out. Jasmine Walker is out for the season and the same can be said for Maria Vadeeva.

The game

New York won the first meeting in June. This is the last regular season meeting between the two clubs.

When this one wraps up, Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb will be hitting the road. They’ll be joining their former Seattle teammates at the White House on Monday afternoon as President Joe Biden will be honoring the 2020 champs. They’ll also be participating in a discussion with the White House Gender Policy Council, which is pretty damn awesome as well.

This game has some important playoff implications. The Liberty are in seventh place, one game ahead of the Dallas Wings and a hair in front of the Sparks as well. A win for NY today would give them the season series win over Los Angeles (they already have it over Dallas) and give them a little bit of breathing room coming down the stretch.

We've got a homecoming today! Amanda Zahui B is back at Barclays after leaving the Liberty to join the Sparks in free agency over the winter. AZB has been a capable rebounder and is currently sixth in the W in blocks this year in her LA debut. She ought to receive a warm hand from the Liberty faithful so we’ll be looking forward to that as well.

So this is a great development. Sparks guard Kristi Toliver was hired by the Dallas Mavericks to be an assistant coach on new Mavs head coach (and former Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks) Jason Kidd’s staff. Toliver had previous experience as she worked as an assistant with the Washington Wizards. Toliver will keep playing with the Sparks, which is fantastic because she’s still out here doing things like this

Although they lost on Friday, the Liberty tied their season low in turnovers with only 10. They’ve led the league in turnovers all year long and if they can consistently take good care of the ball, they’ll be able to take off. The Sparks have led the league in forcing turnovers so this will be a good test for the Liberty to see if they can get the most out of their offense.

While they’re at it, they’re going to try and speed LA up. The Sparks are 10th in pace while NY is second. With a shorthanded team that flew cross country for a day game, getting on the run early should give the Liberty an advantage.

It’s been a good second half for Sabrina Ionescu. The star guard has shot well from the field in each of the three games coming out of the break and if her offense is here, everything will ramp up for the Libs. Like everybody else on the Liberty, if she can manage to keep her turnovers low, her court vision and deft passing will create a bushel of scoring opportunities for a Liberty that has struggled on offense throughout their injury-filled season.

Player to watch: Nneka Ogwumike

Game winners are such a vibe

It's been an interesting 2021 for Ogwumike. She missed the early part of the year due to injury, but was healed up in time to play in the Olympics. However, Team USA did not put her on the team heading to Tokyo and FIBA stifled her plan of playing with the Nigerian team so her Olympic dreams were denied. She spoke about the ordeal with ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

“I haven’t been public at all with my thoughts. I’m not going to lie, it’s been an emotional month — a lot of crying, a lot of just wanting to be alone. But in the midst of all that, it’s amazing to see how many people support me.”

Outside of a knee injury scare on Tuesday against the Dream, it's been a banner second half for Ogwumike thus far. She's averaging around 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists a game on 57 percent shooting from the field in 35 minutes a night. She had six turnovers on Thursday, but otherwise it's been an amazing return.

How often will a career 48 percent shooter from the field go 4-19 from the field? That was Natasha Howard's Friday night as she couldn't get anything going against her former squad. The overwhelming majority of her shot attempts came at the rim and she missed a lot of post shots and layups she usually makes. Now that Howard is back and healthy, NY has a post option to go, which is something they haven’t consistently had (with the exception of Betnijah Laney). Now that she’s back and getting into the swing of things, New

From the Vault

It was supposed to be a special day at Barclays as Crystal Robinson was scheduled to be inducted into the Liberty Ring of Honor. Henri has postponed that. Still, let's head back to 2012 when Crystal was inducted into the Oklahoma sports Hall of Fame

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll