After a strong first three quarters of play, the New York Liberty once again fell victim to an incomplete game and suffered their sixth straight loss, this time at the hands of Breonna Stewart and the Seattle Storm.
With the loss to Seattle, the Liberty lost possession of the eighth seed in the WNBA standings and are officially on the outside looking in for a postseason bid. They are currently a half-game behind the Washington Mystics for the eighth and final playoff spot. They’re barely ahead of the 10th place Los Angeles Sparks. Not a good place to be with only three games left, the next two on the road.
Head coach Walt Hopkins said it best when explaining the loss postgame: “The best player in the world did what the best players in the world did. I don’t think it was lack of aggression or loss of will or anything, but Stewie took the game over.”
Stewart, the league’s reigning Finals MVP and an Olympic gold medal winner in Tokyo, finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists, going 12-of-22 from the floor. Only one other Storm player finished in double figure — center Mercedes Russell had 14 — but that was enough. The win ended a three-game losing streak for Seattle, the defending WNBA champ.
Once again, Sabrina Ionescu shined with an all-around performance for New York. She scored a team-high 20 points and added seven assists. Most of her damage came in the first half, including 12 first quarter points on a perfect 100 percent (5-of-5) shooting from the field, and 2-of-2 from behind the 3-point arc.
In the second half, Ionescu was forced to play a more off-the-ball role, Hopkins explained: “They started to switch guards on to her, so she lost that quickness advantage, so it made sense to try to generate her some offense off the ball.”
Rebecca Allen had herself another impressive performance with 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field along with two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Postgame, she commended herself on her rebounding ability: “Something I know I’m always able to do is rebound, being athletic in that way and helping out the bigs.”
It was a superstar takeover that won the game for Seattle. Stewart scored a game-high 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field, while nailing 9 of her 11 attempts from the free throw line. She also added a game-high eight rebounds and a team-high five assists.
Thursday night was an uncharacteristic showing for Betnijah Laney, New York’s leading scorer. The first time All-Star scored a team-low 3 points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field. She contributed in other areas, dishing 3 assists and snagging a team-high 7 rebounds, but her lackluster scoring output resulted in a -21 +/-.
On the other end, New York was able to limit Seattle Star Jewell Loyd to a mere eight points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field.
Postgame, Hopkins commented on his star’s struggles: “She still made some plays, she rebounded well... It was a tough night for her. She’s allowed to have those nights, too... I’m proud of the way the team is looking for one another & that scoring jumps around.”
Here are the game highlights:
The Liberty do not play for the next nine days. During that time, the Washington Mystics — the other team fighting for that eight spot — will face the Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm, and Atlanta Dream.
After the aforementioned nine-day break, the Liberty will face off against the Dallas Wings on Saturday, September 11 at 8:00pm. The game will be available on WNBA League Pass.