A worthy challenge. The New York Liberty are counting down the days until the WNBA playoffs begin. Until then, their job is to keep stacking up wins before the big dance starts. The Dallas Wings gave them a heck of a fight, but New York did just enough to hang on and escape with a one-point victory on Tuesday night. The W was the team’s seventh in a row. For more Liberty analysis, tap in to the latest edition of the Gotta Get Up podcast, featuring Erica Ayala, Misha Jones, and me!
The opponent tonight is fighting for their playoff lives. The Los Angeles Sparks are trying to hang in, but the road here has been beset with injuries. They put up a fight, but ultimately fell short to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night in CT.
Where to follow the game
The YES Network App (and Amazon Prime) is the place to be. Tip after 7l00 p.m. ET.
All clear for the Liberty.
The Sparks have been besieged by injuries, and the latest injury report is no exception
The following is the @LASparks Game Status Report for tomorrow’s matchup against the New York Liberty:— LA Sparks PR (@LASparksPR) September 6, 2023
Nia Clouden – OUT (knee)
Lexie Brown – OUT (non-covid illness)
Chiney Ogwumike – OUT (foot)
Nneka Ogwumike – QUESTIONABLE (knee)…
Tonight we’ll get to see one of the Most Improved Player candidates. Jordin Canada has kept the Sparks afloat and helped them survive the wave of injuries they’ve dealt with. Over at Swish Appeal, Edwin Garcia made the case for Canada as MIP:
Canada always was known as a good defensive player, but the development on the offensive side of the ball has taken her to another level. Her handle and athleticism makes her a nightmare to defend. On more than one occasion, she has put her defender on skates while she attacks the rim. With her increasing offensive confidence, Canada’s taken more shot attempts, deferring a lot less in her second year with the Sparks.
With the team as shorthanded as they are, they’re going to need Canada to do everything if they want to make it to the playoffs.
Canada is also an All-Defensive team candidate, and she’ll likely have the task of chasing Sabrina Ionescu around. Sab returned to action on Tuesday after sitting out a week due to a calf issue/rest, but didn’t dominate in the ways we’re used to. Sandy Brondello mentioned that she isn’t going to push Sab too hard and the job is to ensure she regains her rhythm before the playoffs start. She’s also two three pointers away from surpassing Diana Taurasi’s single season three pointers record, and doing it in front of the home fans would be a nice treat.
Speaking of Sandy
Coach @SBrondello has been on FIRE— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) September 6, 2023
✔️ Led the Libs to a franchise-best 31-7 record through 38 games
✔️ Led NY to a league-best 9-1 record in August
✔️ Secured the first championship hardware in Liberty franchise history after a Commissioner’s Cup W pic.twitter.com/4BLOua8ca0
That’s what’s up.
We’ll be seeing a former Liberty guard make their return for the first time in a long while. Layshia Clarendon last played in New York in 2021 before she was waived. Clarendon didn’t play in 2022 and has been a godsend for the Sparks. They’ve been able to cover a variety of holes caused by injuries and has been one of Curt Miller’s most reliable players. Liberty fans remember the heavy lifting she did in “the wubble” back in 2020 for a young, shorthanded Liberty ballclub. Clarendon will probably have the matchup of guarding Betnijah Laney tonight. Laney has been the key to the Liberty’s attack this season and recently, Sandy Brondello spoke about Bee’s excellence with Mark Schindler of Compare Bet:
“For B, it was, ok, you’re going to shoot a lot of threes, you’re gonna be a great defensive player, but we want you in transition. Now we’re finding areas where we can post her up and then get the ball to her on second and third side and make decisions with the ball in her hands, and that’s not easy you know, because her role has changed, but I think it’s made her an even better player. I’m really proud of her, because we wouldn’t be where we are today without what she brings on both ends of the floor.”
Laney does everything at a high level and she unlocks a variety of fun combinations for the Liberty.
Player to watch: Dearica Hamby
It’s been a hectic year for Hamby. She was traded from the Las Vegas Aces to the Sparks over the winter and the move sparked allegations that the Aces mistreated her due to her pregnancy. Combine a trade with having to adapt to a new role on a new team with a new coach, and it made for an especially difficult transition. Hamby has started to resemble her Sixth Woman of the Year form in recent games, and with more minutes and reps with a healthy team, should be back to where we’re used to seeing her.
What more can you say?
Breanna Stewart can do everything on a basketball court and has done everything throughout the year. With the seeding all but locked up, don’t look for Stew York to burn too much energy over the next two games. These games should serve as nice tune-ups for when the playoffs start and when the regular season turns to the postseason, she’ll turn her game up even more.
From the Vault
It’s Lion King night at the ‘clays, so let’s pull one up from “The Gift”
And while we’re here, happy (belated) birthday Beyonce!
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