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Liberty and Dream battle for playoff spot in Atlanta

Atlanta Dream v Las Vegas Aces Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

Hope springs eternal. The New York Liberty needed to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they did just that. They beat the Dallas Wings on Wednesday evening to get back in the race. What awaits them is a whole lot of chaos. More on that shortly.

The opponent tonight will be the Atlanta Dream. Tanisha Wright has gotten this team a lot farther than a lot of people expected and she is one of the favorites to win Coach of the Year. The Dream put up a heck of a fight on Tuesday night against the Las Vegas Aces, but fell a few points short.

Where to follow the game

CBS Sports Network has us covered. Tip after 7:30 p.m.


All clear for the Liberty.

Monique Billings is probable with a right ankle injury. AD is out with a hip injury. Kristy Wallace is in COVID protocols. Nia Coffey is out with a right knee injury. And Tiffany Hayes is out as she has overseas commitments.

The game

New York took game one while Atlanta snagged game two.

Get ready to get wild! The Liberty, Dream, Phoenix Mercury, and Minnesota Lynx all have the same record at 14-20. It’s a whole lot to digest, but luckily Dano Mataya of Her Hoop Stats has us covered!

Fun times! For the Liberty, they need to focus on what they can control. That means they need to play hard and do what they can to win these next two games. Let everything else play out and let the chips fall where they may. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Storm vs. Lynx and Wings vs. Mercury.

Job one for the Liberty will be keeping Rhyne Howard out of the paint. The young All Star is but all guaranteed to win Rookie of the Year, and it will be a well deserved honor. On the season, Howard is averaging 16 points and close to five rebounds a night. The shooting percentages are a point for concern and over the last ten games, she’s only shot above 40 percent from the field twice in that span. If the Liberty can keep her out of the restricted area, they’ll have a great chance of shutting her down.

Having Rebecca Allen and Betnijah Laney available will help the Liberty perimeter defense against Howard. They both missed the Atlanta games as they battled their various injuries. Laney in particular was outstanding on Wednesday night and made a bunch of great drives to the basket that reminded us of her All Star campaign in 2021. Laney’s scoring, physical defense, and leadership are absolute musts for a Liberty fighting to make the postseason.

The Liberty bigs are going to need to bring it tonight. The Dream are the third best rebounding team in the WNBA this year, and we know they’re going to fight hard on the boards tonight. Atlanta grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the second game, and that’s been a Liberty bugaboo all season long. They have to complete possessions and use their defense to power their transition attack.

Having Natasha Howard on the court will help the Liberty in a myriad of ways as her attention to defense keeps the Liberty organized. Her offense is always appreciated, but her work on defense keeps New York afloat and always competitive.

Can the Liberty bench do it again? They scored 50 points on Wednesday night as Marine Johannes and Sami Whitcomb were on fire as soon as they touched the hardwood. Having a second unit that can get hot from deep at a moment’s notice is vital and allows you to stay connected even when your starters get off to a cold start. The Dream are incredibly shorthanded so if the Liberty can get them in foul trouble early, they might be able to gradually wear them down.

Player to watch: Erica Wheeler

The last time Wheeler saw the Liberty, this happened

With Hayes out, Wheeler will have a bit more on her shoulders. She’ll be starting at the point and tasked with keeping things moving. She scored a season high 17 points against the Aces on Tuesday and will need to look for her shot with Atlanta so shorthanded.

Sabrina Ionescu didn’t score in the first half, but she turned it up after intermission and had a great all around game. Her 13 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and only one turnover helped the Liberty maintain the rhythm established in the second quarter. She was able to get to the basket a ton over the past two games and that makes a difficult cover even more impossible to handle. Defenders have to respect Ionescu from three point range, and that can open things up for her going downhill. Sandy Brondello mentioned that she wanted Ionescu to be more aggressive coming out of intermission on Wednesday, and it paid off in dividends.

From the Vault

Beyonce is back with Renaissance, but she’s been doing some more work along the way. She teamed up with Ron Isley and the Isley Brothers to remake “Make Me Say It Again Girl.” With that in mind, let’s take it back to the original version

Not to be outdone, she did a remix to “Break My Soul” with Madonna. The remix samples a Madonna classic, so let your body move to the music!

More reading: Swish Appeal, Nets Republic, Just Women’s Sports, Baseline Sports NY, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats and The Next