Turn it up. The New York Liberty keep on putting good days together, and they used a 22-0 fourth quarter run to race past the Chicago Sky on Sunday afternoon. The winning streak is now at six games.
The opponent tonight is hoping to lock down home court advantage in the first round. The Dallas Wings are in the playoffs and are one win away from clinching the four seed. If they get it, it would be the first time the franchise will have home court advantage in the playoffs since they moved to Dallas from Tulsa. They weren’t able to get the job done after losing in overtime to the Indiana Fever on Sunday evening.
Where to follow the game
The YES App and CBS Sports Network have us covered. Tip after 8:00 p.m. ET.
Sabrina Ionescu has been out for precautionary reasons due to a right calf issue, but she’s expected back tonight, officially listed as “probable.”
Kalani Brown has been in health and safety protocols recently, and is listed as questionable for this contest. Diamond DeShields and Lou Lopez Senechal remain out due to knee injuries.
It’s a homecoming! Kayla Thornton is making her return to Dallas for the first time as a member of the Liberty. KT spent six seasons with the Wings and helped them make it to the playoffs four times in that time span. She’s continued that run of success and has been terrific coming off the bench for Sandy Brondello’s club. It’s why she received a well deserved contract extension last week and is why Liberty fans have taken such a liking to her.
Nekias Duncan of The Dunker’s Spot shared a pretty concerning stat yesterday:
The Dallas Wings' defense this year (37 games):— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) September 4, 2023
1st 12: 102.0 DRTG (7th at the time)
Next 12: 97.5 DRTG (1st during that span)
Last 13: 110.1 DRTG (last, 1.3 points worse than PHX)
I just don't care to hear dark-horse talk with them until they get the defense in order.
If Dallas hopes to go on a deep playoff run, they’re going to have to be a LOT better on that side of the ball. The big issue for the Wings is they’re allowing teams to shoot 39.8% from 3-point range, highest in the league after the break. That’s a particularly nasty mix against a Liberty that is second in the league in three point shooting after the break at 36.7%.
The last time the Wings played the Liberty, they out-toughed them as they went on to victory. The Libs have cited that game as the turning point of their season and have made sure to play a tougher, more physical style of basketball. That starts with Jonquel Jones. JJ has owned the glass and leads the WNBA in rebounding after the All Star break. JJ is also someone that can draw opposing centers away from the rim, and getting Teaira McCowan away from the cup will open up a bunch of driving lanes for the Liberty.
For Dallas, Crystal Dangerfield will look to put another great showing together. She’s done incredibly well as the starting point guard for Dallas and is someone Latricia Trammell can count on. Over at Her Hoop Stats, Justin Carter wrote about about Dangerfield and how she can open things up for Dallas’ offense:
Let’s face it. One huge concern this season has been that if Ogunbowale is struggling to shoot, Dallas is in trouble. The Wings are just 1-11 when Ogunbowale shoots 35% or worse from the floor. The frontcourt is a major strength and the talent there means they can withstand a poor night from one of those players, but when Ogunbowale’s struggled, Dallas has struggled.
But if Dangerfield’s going to continue upping her scoring game, the math changes. The defense can’t focus in as intently on Ogunbowale if Dangerfield’s a threat to score as well, which theoretically opens up easier shots for the Wings star. The team becomes a lot more difficult to defend with Dangerfield taking double-digit shots and hitting them at a respectable clip.
CD will have the assignment of guarding Courtney Vandersloot
We’ve got a banner matchup in the frontcourt this evening. On one side, Satou Sabally! Sabally punched Dallas’ ticket to the postseason with a career high 40 points last week vs. the Fever. Sabally has taken a huge leap this season and is showing why she’s a player Dallas fans can count on to lead them into the future. Satou also has another job as Vice President of the WNBPA, and recently spoke about the league reversing course on charter flight policies for the playoffs:
“Don’t promise things you can’t accomplish. This is something that is preventable. We [WNBA players] have been preaching all season long. Shoutout to our union [WNBPA]. They’ve done an amazing job being so vocal. We can’t rely on the league. Promises were made, and they aren’t being fulfilled.”
When the boss tries to pull a fast one, you’ve gotta stay on their necks til they address the issue at hand.
Back on the court, another VP of the union will look to put on a show. Breanna Stewart had another MVP type outing as her 26/14/5/2/1 led the way for New York on Sunday afternoon. Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr observed that Stewart has been in a bit of a mini-slump from three as of late, so seeing one go down from deep should help get her back on the good foot. Stewart has been a dynamo on defense and she’ll toggle between defending Sabally and her former teammate, Natasha Howard.
Player to watch: Arike Ogunbowale
When you’re the franchise player, part of the job is dealing with questions you don’t feel like answering. And when your team has a habit of fussing at the referees instead of getting back on defense, that’s something you’re gonna have to address in public...
And so it goes.
It’s been a busy, busy year for Ogunbowale. She leads the league in minutes and is averaging a career high 37.2 minutes per game. She’s fifth in the league in scoring at 21.1 points a night, but is a poster child for the old volume vs. efficiency debate we always have in basketball. She’s shooting 39.4 percent from the field, and a lot of those shots are incredibly tough
If you force her into tough shots and she makes them, you just gotta shake her hand and move on to the next play.
Sabrina Ionescu figures to be back for this one. She’s been off for the past week as a precautionary measure as she’s been dealing with a right calf issue. Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats made a great point on Twitter when he noted that teams with the depth the Liberty do can afford to give players some rest and not have them play through pain. With the big dance starting next week, making sure your team is at full strength is priority. Sab’s absence also allowed for Jocelyn Willoughby and Marine Johannes to step up and play well when they saw extended minutes. It takes a whole team to win, and the Liberty have a squad that’s locked in and ready to keep climbing the standings.
From the Vault
On Monday, Brooklyn Nets fans received some sad news as Judy Reznick, aka Mrs. Whammy, passed away at the age of 87. Sending love and light to the Reznick family.
Also on Monday, it was announced that Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth passed away at the age of 56. Let's take a trip back in time and pull up one of Smash Mouth's biggest hits
More reading: Mavs Moneyball, 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