Certain games you just GOT to have. Against a Minnesota Lynx team that was down two starters, the New York Liberty came into Tuesday’s game needing to win to stay ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics. The Lynx finished with only eight players and they still wound up beating the Liberty by eight points on Tuesday night. It was the team’s fifth straight loss. That might go down as the worst, most disappointing loss of the season.
The opponent tonight will be the Seattle Storm. The Storm were well represented in the Olympics, and that might be coming back to bite the champs right now. Outside of the Commissioner’s Cup win, it’s been a rocky second half of the season for Seattle and their struggles continued with a 32 point home loss to the Chicago Sky on Sunday. It was the team’s third straight loss.
Where to follow the game
Amazon Prime and YES have us covered. Late night affair so we’re getting started after 10 PM.
Jocelyn Willoughby is out. Sami Whitcomb (left ankle), Jazmine Jones (right foot) and Michaela Onyenwere (chest) are all listed as questionable.
Kiana Williams and Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan are out. Jordin Canada is out after suffering a right knee injury on Sunday.
NY took game one and Seattle got game two.
Here are the playoff standings as we enter this game:
8. New York
9. Los Angeles
The Wings play the Dream and the Sparks visit the Lynx so the Liberty are hoping they get some more help to keep their playoff hopes alive.
As most of us on the East Coast slept (or dealt with the flooding from Hurricane Ida’s remnants), the Supreme Court took another sledgehammer to reproductive rights. The WNBA has been a staunch advocate of women’s rights and have spoken about the issue plenty of times over the years, so we’ll see how the league supports advocates on the ground in Texas.
Homecoming! Natasha Howard will be making her return to Seattle to take on her former team after three exceptional years there. In that time, she was named an All Star and won two championships. Howard and Sami Whitcomb should receive warm hands from the Seattle crowd and it’ll be great for them to be back at their old stomping grounds.
Howard couldn’t get a rhythm going against the Lynx and struggled on Tuesday. The adjustments have come slowly as Howard is trying to figure out and adapt to new roles in real time in a playoff chase. In a perfect world, Howard would’ve had an entire regular season to blend in, but injuries have gotten in the way.
Sabrina Ionescu had a decent game on Tuesday night with 17 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, but she turned it over five times, with four of them coming in the third quarter. One of those turnovers was an inexcusable eight second violation where she wasn’t facing any pressure and was talking with Walt Hopkins and lost track of the time and where she was on the court. She also only took four shots in the paint, which was doubly disappointing as Sylvia Fowles was out with injury and she went 8-8 from the free throw line. Ionescu can attack Sue Bird off the dribble and the Libs need to be assertive in attacking the basket.
This year has been taxing for everyone on account of the Olympics, and it looks like it’s taking a particular toll on the defending champs. The Storm sent their three best players over to Tokyo and they brought home gold. However, outside of their dominant Commissioner’s Cup win, it’s been a slog post Olympic break. Seattle is 2-5 and they’ve looked tired as they’ve fallen to third place. They’ve been off since Sunday and when this one wraps, they’ll have a few more days off until they play again at home on September 7.
If Onyenwere is limited or out, it’ll make the job of defending Breanna Stewart even more difficult. Stewart is a top three player in the W and can score from practically anywhere on the court. She’s an impossible cover and presents a myriad of matchup difficulties.
It should be noted that Onyenwere, the sixth pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, won the league’s Rookie of the Month for August, the third time that’s happened this season, strengthening her case for Rookie of the Year.
Player to watch: Jewell Loyd
Like a lot of Storm players, it looks like the Olympics are starting to take their toll on Loyd. Since the return to action, she’s averaged 19 points a game but only on a .372/.375/.844 shooting split. More specifically, in the last four games, she’s at 11 points on a .327/.222/.700 line. The season is long, travel arduous, and when you throw in the strain of the Olympics on top of it, it becomes even harder to excel. Unlike Bird and Stewart, Loyd didn’t get a few games off after the Olympics so a rest towards the end of the regular season might recharge her batteries come playoff time.
Didi Richards has gotten more confidence as the season has progressed. She’s won fans from all over the basketball community, including Basketball Hall of Famer Teresa Weatherspoon:
“I think that DiDi is definitely one of the players on this team that embodies the New York state of mind, that embodies that hard work because her effort and energy is something that is hard to coach. To me she brings that workhorse mentality to this team and sometimes those players don’t always show up in stats.”
Richards did pester Loyd some in the two game series a while back, so the Liberty will need her to keep at it.
From the Vault
The 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony will be next weekend, so let’s celebrate a new inductee, former Storm forward Lauren Jackson!
More reading: Swish Appeal
- New York Liberty Game Notes - New York Liberty