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Liberty walloped by Sun, 98-69, playoff chances looking slim as losing streak hits eight

WNBA: SEP 15 New York Liberty at Connecticut Sun Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Liberty lost their third and final matchup against the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday Night, extending their losing streak to eight games and further pushing them out of the playoff picture.

New York now finds themselves a full game and a half back from the Washington Mystics, who are currently in the eighth seed — and final — WNBA playoff spot. The Liberty will face Washington in their final matchup of the season, a game that could have massive postseason implications, and could possibly propel New York into the eighth seed IF Washington loses their final regular season game to the Minnesota Lynx and IF the Los Angeles Sparks lose one of their two remaining games.

After a first quarter that saw New York jump out to an early lead and an all around solid first half, New York squandered it completely in the second half of play. The seafoam could only manage to score 22 points in the third and fourth periods and ended up falling to Connecticut by 29 points. Postgame, head coach Walt Hopkins acknowledged their opponents’ prowess while also admitting his team’s effort was lackluster:

“We gave up. I think the team gave up in the second half. They got punched 3, 4, 5 times, [and] turned the ball over a few times.” He said. “Connecticut showed why they’re the best team in the league and we showed why we struggle to close games.”

Despite tweaking her ankle mid-game, Natasha Howard was able to return and ended up finishing the contest with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. Howard also finished with a team-high eight rebounds, as well as three assists, three blocks, and two steals, capping off a signature all-around performance.

The WNBA’s presumptive Rookie Of The Year, Michaela Onyenwere, recorded 14 points off the bench, including 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Onyenwere came off the bench against the Sun, but said it didn’t affect her mindset postgame:

“I approach every single game in the, in the same way. All that really changes is I don’t do my intro dance.”

Howard dished out praise for the young forward: “Mic did her part, coming off the bench. Attacking their bigs with soft feet, playing good defense, staying down. She did her part overall.”

As for the Sun, who established a new franchise record with 13 straight wins, Jonquel Jones finished with an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double. She also dished four assists and finished with two blocks. DeWanna Bonner added another 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field along with four rebounds and four assists. The biggest line in the Sun box score however belonged to two-time All-Star Alyssa Thomas who played for the first time since rupturing her Achilles tendon nine months ago. Thomas played nearly 17 minutes, scoring six points.

Here are the game highlights:

To say the Liberty have been in free fall is an understatement. After starting the season 5-1, they’re 6-19 since and 1-9 since the WNBA’s Olympic break. What happened Wednesday was just the latest second half turnaround.

“[Connecticut] took us out of the flow of what we were doing that worked in the first half. We didn’t respond in the day we wanted to. We faltered instead of matching that intensity,” Onyenwere said post-game.

“First half, we saw everything we worked on. Executing, taking care of the ball. In the second half, we kind of gave in... and that’s what trickled down to them scoring, them getting into us and us backing down. We weren’t tough,” added Howard.

Sabrina Ionescu, who finished with 14 points, four rebounds and five assists, promised that the Liberty will push the envelope in Friday’s do-or-die game.

“I think we have to get back to our identity of playing hard for the entire game...no matter what happens, I think that’s how we want to end the season.”

In addition to the playoff implications, the Liberty-Mystics game Friday will also be the first game to be played under New York Mayor Bill deBlasio’s regulations covering indoor venues. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm and the game will be aired on YES.