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Breanna Stewart sets WNBA scoring record as Liberty hold on to beat Wings

New York Liberty v Dallas Wings Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Nothing beats a good dress rehearsal. Before the real event starts, you want to make sure that the sound is right, everything looks good, and everyone knows where to go come opening night. Those dress rehearsals make sure things are operating where you want them to be, but it can also teach you a few things along the way.

Technically, the New York Liberty still have a chance at securing the one seed in the WNBA playoffs. They’re right on the heels of the Las Vegas Aces, but they’re going to need a lot of help to snag the one seed. They’re probably not going to get it, but they still have business to tend to. That started with a visit to Texas to face the Dallas Wings.

Dallas is trying to lock down homecourt advantage in the playoffs for the first time since they’ve moved from Tulsa. The Wings are trying to hold off the Minnesota Lynx, who are right behind them in the standings. In an intense, playoff atmosphere type game, the Liberty escaped with a gritty 94-93 victory. The win was the Liberty’s seventh in a row and put them one game behind the Aces for the one seed.

The story of this game and the Liberty season was Breanna Stewart. Stew York has been everything Liberty fans ever dreamed of, and Tuesday night, she made some more history.

Stewart scored 40 points for the fourth time this season, another WNBA record. Stewie scored in a variety of ways and turned things up after half. After intermission, she scored 23 of her 40 points on 8-of-14 from the field. She got to it in a lot of ways and kept the Liberty afloat even when things got tight.

After the game, Stewart told the media she was proud to set the scoring record. She also noted that with the season being longer than when Diana Taurasi set the previous record, that changes things a bit. She also shouted out her teammates and how they’ve been able to help her along this historic journey

Stewart continues to find new ways to amaze the fans, and with two games left to go in the season, she appears to be the favorite to capture the Most Valuable Player award.

For as great as Stewart was, Satou Sabally proved to be up to the challenge. The Most Improved Player candidate as her 27/4/4/2 led the Wings and almost helped them secure the four seed tonight. Dallas was trailing by one with under 20 seconds to go, and here’s how the final possession went down...

94-93, Liberty. It was a physical, sometimes chippy game that saw two teams bring the playoff intensity. For the Liberty, this worked as a tuneup of sorts, and we asked Sandy Brondello about what the team can learn from a game like this

“Knowing that we can fight back regardless of how we played in the first half [and] making the adjustments. This is a team, I think we’ve grown in that area. We can learn from our mistakes quickly, and we can refocus and get it done. And once we’re all on the same page in the closed fist, I think that’s when we have the most success. So we’re just resilient and we handle adversity pretty well. And that’s what we’re gonna have to do in the playoffs.”

Lock Down Bee

New York Liberty v Dallas Wings Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Betnijah Laney has taken on the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. Whether it’s Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Mitchell, etc., Laney has taken on the challenge of going up against the best. More often than not, she’s delivered when called upon, and tonight was no exception. After Arike Ogunbowale started off 4-of-5 in the first quarter, she went 2-of-10 the rest of the way. Laney and the Libs crowded the Wings star and made every shot attempt a challenge

Laney was also the defensive MVP of that final possession of the game, as our own Lucas Kaplan explained:

In postgame, we asked Laney about that final stop and the team’s work against Ogunbowale:

“We knew that we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be in the first half. And so, going into the locker room, that’s something that we talked about how when we are disruptive when we are aggressive, it makes a huge difference. And so that’s just something that we focused on in that second half. And at the end of the game, we knew what was on the line. If we’re not aggressive, if we’re just passive and allow people to do what they want, [and] what she’s capable of. So it was just more about, game on the line, we need to be aggressive, we need to understand tendencies and get a stop.”

The Liberty have promoted Bee for Defensive Player of the Year, and games like this go a long way in bolstering her case.

The great thing about Betnijah Laney is that in addition to her excellence on the defensive end, the team has made it a greater point to find her in the post when she has the mismatch against opposing guards.

As pressure mounts and possessions gets tighter in the postseason, being able to successfully score from all three areas of the court takes on even more importance.

Next up

Los Angeles Sparks v Connecticut Sun Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty come home to wrap up the regular season with two at Barclays Center. First up will be the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night. Tip after 7:00 p.m. ET at the ‘clays.