One more to go. The New York Liberty kept the good times going on Thursday with a come from behind win against the Los Angeles Sparks. The W as their eighth in a row and is the second longest in team history.
The Sparks have been besieged by injuries, and today’s opponent knows the feeling all too well. Through it all, the Washington Mystics have persevered and are back in the WNBA playoffs. Their seeding isn’t set yet, and they lost to the Atlanta Dream on Friday night in DC.
Where to follow the game
YES Network app has us covered. Day time affair so the party’s getting started after 1:00 p.m. ET
All clear for the Liberty. which is great going into the post-season.
Kristi Toliver tore her ACL last week and is out for the season. Shakira Austin recently re-injured her left hip and is out. Ariel Atkins recently broke her nose against the Las Vegas Aces, but is back and on a minutes restriction.
The job today is real simple: make it through this game in one piece. The Liberty have big fish to fry and they’re going to need everyone at full strength to do it. The playoff seeding isn’t set quite yet, but it appears likely that the Liberty will face the Mystics in the first round. Either way, the Liberty begin their playoff adventure at home on Friday night at the ‘clays.
So if this is the likely first round matchup, we probably won’t see the Liberty reveal too much. When you face a team as good as the Mystics, you want to make sure that If this matchup holds, at least the teams won’t be screwed over by the league’s charter flights reversal. Small miracles, I suppose.
The big news surrounding the team was the extension for Betnijah Laney! On Saturday afternoon, the team announced that she had signed a multiyear extension to stay in New York for the foreseeable future. Laney has been everything the Liberty could’ve dreamed of when she joined the franchise in 2021 and as they head into an exciting future, she will play a big part in that.
Although Washington is locked into the seventh seed, they still want to end the season on a high note. Eric Thibault said as much following Friday night’s game, and a good showing against their likely first round opponent would help. That starts with Elena Delle Donne. EDD has been besieged by injuries this season, but when she has played, she’s been on a 50/40/90 pace. Delle Donne has always been a matchup nightmare for opponents and with the playoffs starting this week, the Mystics are going to need her to be at her very best if they want to win the championship.
Breanna Stewart gets one more opportunity to put on an MVP showcase. Stewie probably won’t be out there too long, but with five days off before the playoffs, a good run wouldn’t hurt.
Prior to the start of the game, the Liberty will celebrate their Commissioner’s Cup championship and raise that banner to the rafters. For a Liberty franchise that won its first piece of hardware, it’s a welcome celebration and a proud accomplishment for this franchise. When you win one trophy, you wanna keep at it and fill the trophy case with even more gold. It’s Fan Appreciation Game, and Liberty fans have a lot to celebrate in 2023.
Player to watch: Brittney Sykes
Sykes has been a godsend for Eric Thibault's team and has a real good chance of making the All Defensive team. Sykes has been a hawk on that side of the ball and has stepped up her production on the offensive side of the ball as well. She’s taken on the most offensive responsibility of her career, and has paid it off with career highs in scoring (15.8) and three point range (35.1). Sykes is a dependable player and someone who always makes winning plays. Teams always need players like that if they want to succeed.
For Sabrina Ionescu, this game represents another opportunity to work off some rust. Sab missed a week for rest/calf injury and has been working her way back to optimal form. In her postgame on Thursday, she mentioned that she was shaking off the rust as she gets back in the swing of things after being out for a bit. Ionescu has given max effort on both sides of the ball and is in line for a big time playoff run. On Saturday, her SI20 foundation held an event with Dream Charter School in the Bronx, and those kids will be in attendance this afternoon. We were on the scene and got to see the kids have the time of their lives having fun and hooping with Ionescu. To borrow from Arielle Chambers, the WNBA is so important.
From the Vault
I’m in a Phyllis Hyman mood. That’s always a good thing
More reading: Bullets Forever, 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