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Liberty look to extend winning streak vs. Sun

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Washington Mystics v Connecticut Sun Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The party’s going on. The New York Liberty are advancing towards the WNBA playoffs, and they’ve got some more business to take care of before the postseason begins. They helped the cause by taking down the Las Vegas Aces at a sold out Barclays Center on Monday night. They’ve now won their last four games and have a chance to clinch at least the second seed with a win tonight.

The opponent tonight is looking to round into shape as we wrap the season up. The Connecticut Sun have been magnificent all season long and after beating the Phoenix Mercury last night, clinched the third seed.

Where to follow the game

ION is the place to be. Tip after 8:00 p.m.


Sabrina Ionescu is questionable with a right calf issue, but it’s looking less and less likely as the day wears on.

Brionna Jones is out with an Achilles injury. Dijonai Carrington has been bothered by a left foot injury and has missed the past few weeks. No word on if she plays tonight.

The game

The Liberty took game one in May, game two in June, and game three last week. This is the last regular season meeting between these two clubs.

I saw this tweet from Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats, and it’s blown my mind ever since

Holy smokes. Alyssa Thomas has done everything for the Sun this season and is a worthy candidate for MVP. The Sun fall off a cliff on the few occasions she does sit, so it’s understandable that Stephanie White turns to Thomas as much as she does. With this being night two of a back-to-back (Connecticut’s first one of the season), we’ll see if AT gets a little extra rest. With this being a b2b, the Sun got to use a charter flight to make it her to NYC. That may turn out to be an issue come playoff time, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that situation as it develops.

Thomas is getting ready for the playoffs, and as she explained to Jacqueline LeBlanc of The Next, it’s go time for her young teammates:

“It’s crunch time now with playoffs coming up and we believe in them, but you got to go out there with confidence in yourself and be ready and be able to execute gameplay and knock down shots.”

Breanna Stewart will look to put on another MVP showcase for the hometown faithful. On Monday, Stew York had 20/12/7/3/2. What more can you say? Last time she saw the Sun, she found the scoring touch late and helped power the Liberty’s fourth quarter comeback.

The Liberty dominated the glass last time they played Connecticut, and Jonquel Jones was a key part of that. JJ continues to lead the WNBA in rebounding after the All Star break and is seventh overall in rebounding for the entire season. In the game in CT last week, JJ wore the Sun out on the inside to the tune of 21 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks.

When the Liberty get it to Jones, they can take full advantage of her size and presence in the low post. The Sun have started utilizing Olivia Nelson-Ododa more after she didn’t play against the Liberty last week. Connecticut could use her size to help battle Jones and Stefanie Dolson when she gets into the game as well. When the Liberty own the boards, they own the game. Look for the Sun to place extra attention on the glass tonight.

How the Liberty defend DeWanna Bonner will help swing this game. DB lit the Liberty up to the tune of 30 points and 12 rebounds last week. She’s at the four due to Bri Jones’ injury, and it’s going to take a total team effort by the Liberty to slow her down tonight. Betnijah Laney and Kayla Thornton have been elite perimeter defenders for the Liberty, and Sandy Brondello will count on them to make things tough on the five time All Star.

Player to watch: Tiffany Hayes

With Carrington out injured, the Sun’s guard room has lost some major firepower. Carrington is second on the team in three point shooting at a career best 40.4 percent from deep. So with no Carrington, look for Hayes to take on even more responsibility. She fouled out of the game last Thursday and the Sun need her to play big minutes if they want to win. She can drive to the cup and finish over traffic, which is something the Sun don’t have much of in the backcourt.

Assuming Ionescu is less than 100 percent or sits this out, Marine Johannes will take on a bigger role. MJ has got her groove back and is back to making astounding plays that has basketball fans in awe all around the world. On the site yesterday, Lucas Kaplan wrote about what’s been key to Johannes’ August resurgence:

“Marine Johannés isn’t playing more thanks to her newfound success. She’s still rocking a steady 18 minutes a game in the second half of August, just as she was previously. Her usage rate remains largely unchanged.

But the New York Liberty’s ultra-motion, ultra-ball-sharing offense has finally extended to their third guard. Johannés is getting into the paint with the ball, moving without it, and all the while making quick decisions. Many of which are shots. When you can shoot it like she can, well, those are good decisions.”

The Liberty have been one of the best passing teams in WNBA history, and when the ball is always moving and Johannes is always moving, great things tend to happen.

From the Vault

It’s West Indian night at Barclays and with the West Indian Day parade coming up on Monday, it’s time to celebrate! Performing at halftime will be Nailah Blackman!

and joining her will be Serani!

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