Couldn’t swing it. The New York Liberty were back after the All Star break and were looking to keep their winning streak going. Unfortunately for them and the sold out crowd at the Barclays Center, the Dallas Wings had other plans. The Wings used a dominant third quarter to take control of the game and hand the Liberty only their fifth loss of the season. The Libs are now 14-5 on the WNBA season.
The opponent tonight is hoping to get back on the good foot. The Washington Mystics returned to action on Wednesday morning for their own Camp Day. And like the Liberty, they couldn’t get the W as they lost to the Indiana Fever.
Where to follow the game
ION TV is the place to be. We’re the only game on the docket so the party’s getting started after 7:00 p.m. ET.
No Stefanie Dolson or Han Xu.
Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins are out with left ankle sprains. Shakira Austin is out with a left hip strain. Kristi Toliver is out with right plantar fasciitis. With all of those injuries, it’s a fair question to ask if the Mystics could add more players via the hardship rule. However, it’s a lot more complicated than that, as Eric Thibault recently explained:
(4/4) With those 4 players out and 2 players signed to hardships, Mystics are down to 9 healthy players. But Thibault said the team is unlikely to add another to get up to 10 because of complexity with #WNBA rules. Here's how he explained it. @TheNextHoops— Jenn Hatfield (she/her) (@jennhatfield1) July 18, 2023
Q: @theTylerByrum pic.twitter.com/DT2Lgq9MVe
Our friends over at The Next have a great injury tracker that you should keep an eye on.
Washington took the first one on Opening Night while NY grabbed the rematch in June. They wrap up the season series on the last day of the regular season in September.
The Mystics are looking a little different after they traded Amanda Zahui B to the Indiana Fever in exchange for Queen Egbo. Egbo gives the ‘stics some much needed size on the interior, which is key for a Mystics team that struggles on the glass. Washington is second to last in rebounding rate on the season, and that’s something the Liberty will try to take advantage of. NY often has bad rebounding nights, and sometimes a lack of physicality hurts them on the glass.
That interior success starts with Jonquel Jones. Foul trouble has been JJ’s biggest bugaboo this season as it’s kept her from fully placing her imprint on games. The fouls take away from her aggressiveness and leaves her teammates having to scramble to make up for it, so Sandy Brondello is hoping Jones has a friendly whistle so she can go to work on the interior.
The team will also try to be more active on the passing lanes. The Wings tied a WNBA record with only two turnovers on Wednesday afternoon. The Libs couldn’t get out on the break, and their transition game is the best in the WNBA. With the Mystics less than full strength, this could be a great opportunity for the Liberty’s improved continuity and chemistry to shine through. Against a shorthanded team like this, the Liberty will need to get off to a strong start so they can establish the tempo of this game early. This team always bounces back after losses, and a win tonight would do wonders for the group.
With Delle Donne out, Breanna Stewart will look to take full advantage of this opportunity. Stewie only went 4-of-17 from the field the last time she played the Mystics, but she hit the game winner that sealed the win. With Austin out as well, look for the Liberty to try and get Stewart on the move and getting downhill.
Natasha Cloud is the leader of the team, and Eric Thibault will count on her even more during this tough stretch. She tied a career high in field goal attempts against the Fever with 18, but only went 7-of-18 from the floor. Any time you have to take on a lot more scoring duties than usual on short notice, it’s a tough adjustment. Cloud is up for it, so we’ll see how she does.
She’ll also have the assignment of mucking up the passing lanes for Courtney Vandersloot. Sloot had five turnovers on Wednesday, and missing out on those possessions hurt the Liberty’s chances of making a comeback. The Liberty have played wonderful team basketball throughout the year, and Sloot’s quarterbacking of the offense has been a key part to that.
Player to watch: Brittney Sykes
Sykes was one of the more under the radar pickups last off-season, and with the slate of injuries affecting the team, she’s had to step up even more. She’s had to do more on offense, which is to be expected due to all the injuries the Mystics have been dealing with. Sykes is a great player off the ball, but defense is where she shines the most. The Mystics have been an elite defense all season long, and a lot of that is due to Sykes’ excellence on that side of the ball. Defense travels anywhere you go, and Washington’s D will keep them in plenty of games.
Sabrina Ionescu will look to keep the 3-point party going. After Wednesday’s game, Stefanie Dolson mentioned to us that when the Liberty are out in transition, they can utilize drag screens for players like Vandersloot, and it’ll help Ionescu as well
Ionescu has been dialed in from deep as she’s shot 45 percent or better from three point range in each of the past six games. The Mystics went under screens against Ionescu a ton the last time these teams played, and Sabrina burned them to the tune of 7-12 from deep. Doing that again is asking for trouble, so we’ll see what the adjustment is for DC.
From the Vault
Tonight, Drake wraps up his last night performing at Barclays Center. He’s got a lot of bangers on his resume, so we’ll pull two up before we hit the road