Coming into Sunday’s action, the New York Liberty needed everything to break right for them. On the outside looking in of the playoff picture, they needed losses from eighth seeded Washington and ninth place Los Angeles to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They made it to this point after holding on to beat Washington in the season finale at Barclays Center on Friday night.
In the early afternoon, the Mystics were first. If they won, they would wrap up the eighth seed and make their fifth straight postseason appearance. The win also would’ve bolstered former Liberty legend Tina Charles’ MVP odds as well.
Fortunately for NY, the Lynx had plenty to play for as a win would bump them up to third place in the standings. Minnesota helped their former assistant coach and current Liberty head coach, Walt Hopkins, out by beating Washington by six early Sunday afternoon. Minnesota has a first round playoff bye and the veteran team, led by Olympian Sylvia Fowles and former Liberty guard, Layshia Clarendon, will get some time to rest up before returning to action next weekend.
With one domino down, the Los Angeles Sparks had their own playoff destiny in their hands. A win would get them in and keep the Liberty. Standing in their way were the seventh seeded Dallas Wings. Just last week, Dallas clinched their own ticket to the playoffs with a last second win against the Liberty that did serious damage to NY’s hopes. With the Liberty needing Dallas’ help, their players locked in and watched closely along with fans all across the WNBA
The Dallas Wings were doing their part and then some. They led by ten after three quarters and were up by as much as 13 points in the fourth quarter. However, Derek Fisher’s club, led by top 25 WNBA player of all time Nneka Ogwumike and former WNBA All Star, Erica Wheeler, are an incredibly proud and resilient bunch. They fought all the way back to make it a three point game with a chance to send the game into overtime.
Wheeler had been on fire, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter and had her shot to send it to OT and deliver the final knockout blow to the Liberty’s playoff chances...
With that miss, the Wings held on for the victory and delivered the eighth seed to the Liberty.
Any playoff experience is special, but it feels extra special for this year’s Liberty squad. It represents a dramatic improvement from their 2-20 2020 “wubble” season. The “hybrid rebuild” is working so far and a good showing in the playoffs will go a long way in reestablishing New York as a WNBA powerhouse.
Now that the Liberty are in the playoffs, they’ll be hitting the road. They’re in Phoenix Thursday night to take on a star studded Mercury team in a single elimination game. Led by Olympians and future Hall of Famers, Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix is hoping to go on a deep run and claim their first championship since 2014.
- Liberty earn final WNBA playoff spot following losses by Mystics, Sparks - AP
- Liberty players celebrate after making postseason for first time since 2017 - Sarah Valenzeuela - New York Daily News
- ‘It’s only the beginning’: Liberty come together to end season on high note - Jackie Powell - The NEXT
- WNBA playoff matchups set in final minutes of regular season - Ted Baker - The NEXT
- Recaps: Mystics, Sparks fall, idle Liberty rise into playoffs - Zach Ward - Swish Appeal
- Idle New York Liberty, just 2-20 a season ago, clinch playoff spot with losses by Sparks, Mystics - Mechelle Voepel - ESPN
- New York Liberty clinch final spot in 2021 WNBA playoffs - Geoff Magliocchetti - Empire Sports Media
- Liberty Clinch First Playoff Berth Since 2017 - New York Liberty