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Liberty start two-game mini-series vs. LA Sparks on ESPN

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Dallas Wings v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

A big push that ultimately fell a bit short. The New York Liberty found themselves down 17 points on the second half of a back-to-back against the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night. However, they tapped into their energy reserves and make a furious rally to get as close as one point. Unfortunately for them, that's the closest they would get as the Lynx beat them 88-83. The L snapped the Liberty’s four game winning streak.

The opponent today is starting to right the ship. Injuries have decimated the Los Angeles Sparks, but they've kept on fighting and are in position to make it back to the playoffs for the first time in the post Candace Parker era. They helped the cause by completing a two game mini sweep against the Indiana Fever on Thursday afternoon.

Where to follow the game

ESPN is the place to be. Tip after 4:00 p.m. ET.


No Stefanie Dolson or Han Xu. Courtney Vandersloot got a rest day on Friday and should be back in the starting five tonight.

Lexie Brown is out with a non COVID illness. Katie Lou Samuelson is out on maternity leave. Stephanie Talbot is out for the season with a knee injury. Chiney Ogwumike is out a few weeks with a foot injury.

The game

This is the first of a two-game set. These teams will do it again on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles is a lot different from when we last saw them in 2022. They have new management in the form of General Manager Karen Bryant and Head Coach Curt Miller. As the Sparks have dealt with their injury woes, Miller spoke at a midseason press conference about the difficulty in juggling all of the changes:

“We’ve had 12 different starting lineups in the first 20 games. So trying to find chemistry and continuity through that hasn’t always been easy.”

As they start healing up and getting ready for the stretch run, having a full collection of talent combined with Miller’s excellent coaching could prove to be the difference for LA.

When the Liberty own the boards, they win. If you’re looking for a tie that binds both their second half losses, it was their lack of success on the glass. On the season, the Liberty are ranked second on the boards, which is surprising considering their early season woes on the glass. The team has made it a point to attack the boards as a team, and it’s been paying off. Own the boards, get out and run, and get easy baskets. Simple formula, right? We’ll see.

Having Vandersloot back should help keep the ball moving. At times on Friday, it looked the Liberty didn’t make that extra pass we’re so used to seeing out of them. With Sloot running the show, the bench can slide down to their usual roles instead of having to do more to offset her absence. That should help Marine Johannes in particular as she was a non-factor in Friday’s game. In postgame, Sandy Brondello noted they needed her to be more aggressive, but also noted that she and the team have to put MJ in position to do so.

Sandy Brondello has talked a lot about going from paint to great. Basically, the more the team attacks the basket, the better their results will be. That will be the key to this series as Los Angeles allows teams to shoot 68.9 percent inside the restricted area, highest in the WNBA. Look for Betnijah Laney to make it a point to get to the basket. Bee had a rare off night as she only went 5-14 from the field. As Laney goes, so go the Liberty.

To that restricted area number, look for Jonquel Jones to make a bigger impact in this game. JJ had a relatively quiet game against the Lynx as she only went 3-of-6 from the field in 28 minutes. The Sparks are short on bigs, so a lot will be on Azura Stevens’ shoulders tonight. If she gets into any sort of foul trouble, that can spell big trouble for LA.

On the other side, the Liberty will have to be careful with the team. You know you’re going up against a Curt Miller squad by the turnover rate. The Sparks have forced foes to cough it up 19 percent of the time, third highest in the league. In all but one season, Miller led teams have been top five in opponent turnover rate. Jordin Canada has been instrumental to that as she is currently sixth in the W in steals per game. If the Liberty don’t maintain their focus, Canada can shake things up and put them behind the eight ball.

Player to watch: Nneka Ogwumike

It’s a hot labor summer! Across various industries in the United States, workers have been fighting for better conditions, benefits, and treatment from management. As workers, it’s heartening to see people stand up and fight for just treatment. The WNBPA has always stood with labor, and on Friday, they released a joint statement with the NBPA, MLBPA, MLSPA, NFLPA, NHLPA, USWNTPA, and NWSLPA in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and WGA as they are on strike.

We’ve all gotta stick together.

On the court, the WNBPA President has been wonderful. Ogwumike has been the engine of the LA attack and is averaging a career high in points (20.3) and free throw percentage (91.1). Ogwumike is such a great finisher at the rim and can make things happen on the move

Look for her WNBPA Vice President to put on a show in Hollywood. Breanna Stewart struggled from the field on Friday as she only went 5-19 from the field. She made up for it some by going 10-11 from the free throw line, but still. Like the Liberty as a whole, Stewart is always able to bounce back from off shooting nights. If the Sparks send some extra direction her way, she can use her passing ability to make them pay by finding players like Sabrina Ionescu wide open from deep. It’ll be a fun cat and mouse game between the teams today.

From the Vault

That’s that Freaknik, that’s that 1996

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll, Swish Appeal, The Strickland, The Local W, New York Daily News, The Athletic. Fansided, Just Women’s Sports, SI All Knicks, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats, CBS Sports, and The Next