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Liberty look to clinch berth in Commissioner’s Cup final with win over Fever

Indiana Fever v Seattle Storm Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Stay the course. In another tough battle, the Seattle Storm gave the New York Liberty a challenge for much of the day. However, New York did what they needed to do and came away with an 80-76 victory on Saturday afternoon. The win was their third in a row. For more on the Liberty, watch my latest appearance on the Gotta Get Up podcast with Erica Ayala of Black Rosie Media:

The opponent tonight is trying to right the ship. The Indiana Fever have a lot of potential, but the results haven’t shown up just yet. They played the Chicago Sky down to the final possession on Sunday afternoon, but missed at the buzzer and lost by one point. The L was their seventh in a row. The All Star break will definitely do them some good.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. Camp Day so we getting started at high noon.


No Stefanie Dolson or Han Xu.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Fever announced that Lexie Hull (broken nose) and Nalyssa Smith (left foot stress fracture) will miss this game.

The game

New York won the first meeting back in May.

This one's got some high stakes attached to it. A win for the Liberty clinches their spot in the Commissioner's Cup championship game and a date with the Las Vegas Aces. In training camp, the team cited making an appearance in the Commissioner’s Cup final as a goal of theirs, and a win would be a nice close to a terrific first half.

2.4. Those are the amount of shots per game that Aliyah Boston gets in the fourth quarter. To my surprise, that’s tied for most among rookies in the W this season, but only 34th among all WNBA players and fourth on the team. For centers that can score like Boston does, you have to get them the ball in positions where they can make things happen and get them the ball as often as you can.

The rebounding battle will be crucial tonight. Despite Saturday’s poor showing on the boards, the Liberty still find themselves third in the WNBA in rebounding. The Fever are slightly ahead of them, so if the Liberty want to come away with the win, they’ll need to be a lot more detailed and dedicated on the boards. That’ll start with Jonquel Jones. JJ has continued to find her footing and her defensive presence on the interior.

How do you replace two starters at once? That’s the unfortunate question Christy Sides and the Fever have to ask as they are without Hull and Smith. We’ll see if this means more minutes for the newly acquired Amanda Zahui B. AZB plays centers so she’ll be backing up Boston, but a young team like this could always stand to get some help from a seasoned veteran.

Sabrina Ionescu has a big weekend ahead of her. She’s playing with Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot on Saturday and on Friday will pull double duty by taking part in the Skills competition (alongside Sloot) and be in the three point contest. Today would make for a nice test run for Ionescu. She’s up to a career best 43.9 percent from downtown and is one of the league leaders from deep. With the Fever shorthanded, they’ll have to try out new combinations and rotations without Hull and Smith. That could open up some scoring lanes for Ionescu as she is a master at using leverage to get to her spots on the court.

Ultimately, the Fever will have to find a way to stop Breanna Stewart. Stewie lit them up to the tune of 45 points the first time around as she was able to feast in transition and capitalize on even the slightest Fever miscue. Stewart has been absolutely incredible and is a contender to take home the MVP award this fall. She’s got All Star captain duties awaiting her after this one wraps up, so she’s hoping she can give the Indianapolis crowd a preview of the fireworks that’ll be on display Saturday night in Vegas.

Player to watch: Kelsey Mitchell

Mitchell is heading to the All Star Game this weekend, but she recently received a bigger honor. In June, she earned the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award for the work she does in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Coach Staley spoke about Mitchell and said:

“Community service is a selfless act. With all of the pressures, travel, and time away from family that players balance, they could easily make excuses on why they don’t have time to do anything extra. You find the moments where you can utilize your platform to elevate others. You somehow find the energy to give because you know that you have the resources that communities need. Kelsey exemplifies what it means to have a servant’s heart. She is no stranger to being a community advocate and philanthropist or to this award. She is the first player to win the Dawn Staley Award in college and the WNBA and I am proud of the leadership she displays, on and off the court.”

WNBA players always step up and are present for the community, and it’s awesome to see Mitchell get recognized for her efforts.

On the court, Mitchell has earned a trip to this weekend’s All Star Game in Las Vegas. She’s averaging close to 17 points a game on .409/.382/.821 splits in 33 minutes a night. She’s sixth in three point attempts and can burn a team from downtown once she heats up. She’s quick off the dribble and a crafty finisher at the rim once she gets downhill. With Hull and Smith out, the Fever will need a lot more from Mitchell as they try to make a playoff push.

In the first meeting, the Liberty held Mitchell to just 4-12 shooting from the field. Betnijah Laney got the assignment for much of that game and she had previously mentioned to me that staying aggressive on Mitchell is key to slowing her down. Mitchell presents a different challenge compared to Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, so it’s going to take a total team effort to slow her down and punch New York’s ticket to Vegas in August. Laney also is a Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award recipient, so that’s a nice tie that binds her and Mitchell together.

From the Vault

A few days ago, I watched Wham! on Netflix, and it is AMAZING. Let’s pull up one of my favorites from the boys

And yesterday was a special day in Brooklyn as Lil Kim celebrated her birthday! Let’s pull up one of the Queen Bee’s many classics

More reading: Indiana Fever Blog: Swish Appeal, The Strickland, The Local W, New York Daily News, Fansided, Just Women’s Sports, SI All Knicks, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats, CBS Sports, and The Next