Free falling. The New York Liberty put forth another good effort, but couldn’t bring it all the way home and lost another one, this time to the Seattle Storm on Thursday night. It was the team’s sixth straight loss and they are barely holding on to their playoff spot. No time to despair tho.
The opponent tonight is a big one. The Dallas Wings are fighting to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and are almost there. They didn’t help their cause much after getting obliterated by the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night. The Liberty have to deal with the Sun next after this one wraps.
Where to follow the game
This one is gonna be hard to find so if you have League Pass, that might be your best bet. Tip after 8 PM.
Jocelyn Willoughby is out as she has been all season. Everyone else is available. That’s the best Liberty medical report all season.
Satou Sabally has been bothered by an Achilles injury for a while now. No word if she plays.
New York took the first game in May and second in July. This is critical because both wins gave NY the season series win so if they wind up tied in the standings, the Liberty will go above Dallas.
Here are the standings as we enter tonight’s action:
8(t). New York
8(t). Washington Mystics (tie)
10. Los Angeles Sparks
The first six seeds are locked in, so now the final four will do battle for the last two spots. What are the stakes in this one? Let Wings coach Vickie Johnson tell you
“We have to beat New York. Period. We have to play great basketball.”— Dorothy J. Gentry (@DorothyJGentry) September 9, 2021
Coach VJ #WNBA #WNBATwitter
The playoffs begin now.
That week off before the final stretch run could do the Liberty some good. While they were away, the players were treated to a trip to Napa Valley, California from team governors Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. It was a great getaway for the team, and this quote from Jazmine Jones stood out and is something other team ownership groups should keep in mind:
“Our ownership is freaking amazing. They treat us just like they treat the NBA team”
There was more bonding on Thursday when several members of the team went to Queens for the U.S. Open and ran into Wanda Sykes...
It was a pleasure bumping into you!✌ https://t.co/TvHTIkZrxX— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) September 10, 2021
How do you bounce back from the worst game of your pro career? That’s the big question Betnijah Laney is facing after the Storm made her life miserable last week. She tied a season (and career) high with nine turnovers and Seattle limited her to only four field goal attempts. It’s been a rocky second half for Laney as she’s only put up a .370/.292/.789 shooting split and has seen her scoring average plummet from 19 to 12.8 points a game. The nine days off should do her some good as she’s gotten a chance to wash away a bad August and hopefully bring the team home to a playoff spot.
It’s been tricky incorporating Natasha Howard back into the lineup. She’s second in the entire WNBA in usage rate following the Olympic break, but has only been shooting .425/.321/.846 in her return from injury. On one hand, you have to incorporate your star into the attack and get them comfy. At the same time, when Laney had the ball in her hands more, the Liberty did look better. Walt Hopkins doesn’t have too much time left in the regular season to figure this out.
Player to watch: Arike Ogunbowale
Without Sabally, Ogunbowale has had to carry the scoring and playmaking load. It’s a role she’s used to as she’s currently third in field goal attempts per game and second in usage rate. It’s been paying off as she is fifth in the W in scoring this season. It didn’t help against the Sun as they put the clamps on her and forced her into the worst game of her professional career. Ogunbowale went 2-17 as the Sun forced her into difficult shots and caused her to force up a bevy of contested looks. Her double digit points streak ended and the Wings even tried to sneak her back in late as the Sun were cruising to keep the streak alive, but that didn’t help. If the Liberty can keep forcing her into taking tough shots, they’ll be able to keep the Wings offense in the mud. Her field goal percentages against the Liberty this year is in the 30s so she will need to figure it out fast.
The Liberty have begun campaigning for Rebecca Allen to make the All-Defensive team, and a good showing tonight will do her campaign some good. Allen has been excellent following the Olympics and now that she’s in the starting five, she gives the team more flexibility, size, and ace shooting.
Sabrina Ionescu had her best game in a while against the Storm. She scored 20 points on 8-of-16 from the field and got to the basket a bit more than usual. When Ionescu isn’t settling for 3-pointers, she becomes a much more effective player and works to get better shot attempts. Playing Ionescu on ball more might be the thing to keep her on a good streak and she usually makes good decisions when she’s running the show.
While the team was off, Ionescu made a visit to the US Open with a guy we know
I love tennis!!!! This has been so fun! https://t.co/hfkj6eydq7— Sabrina Ionescu (@sabrina_i20) September 9, 2021
Earlier this week, the WNBA commemorated its landmark 25th season today by announcing the selection of “The W25,” a collection of the 25 greatest and most influential players in WNBA history.
Four former Liberty players were named:
- Swin Cash, who played in New York from 2014 through 2016;
- Tina Charles, who played from 2014 through 2019;
- Becky Hammon, who played from 1999 through 2006;
- Cappie Pondexter, who played from 2010 through 2014;
- Katie Smith, who spent one year with Liberty in 2013 (and later coached the team);
From the Vault
September 11 is always a difficult time for the city, but let’s try to lift the vibes a bit. Sports did help people in New York and across the country feel a little bit better, as exemplified by Mike Piazza and the Mets in their first game back in NYC following the attacks.
And on the music side, since we gotta hit the road, I’ll direct you to my brother Jayson Buford’s look back on “The Blueprint” and Jay-Z’s underappreciated 1997-2000 run here. And since my favorite song on this album changes depending on when you run into me, I’ll pull a deep cut out and go with “All I Need.”
More reading: Swish Appeal