The 2017 WNBA schedule is officially here, so New York Liberty fans can start counting down to the season tip off on Saturday, May 13, against the San Antonio Stars at Madison Square Garden.
The league enters its second season of a balanced schedule that sees every team play one another at least three times, with one matchup yielding four meetings; for the Liberty this year’s additional matchup comes against the Connecticut Sun after New York faced Indiana four times a year ago.
Because the teams that New York plays twice at home swap from last season, this year will also bring the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Lynx, Washington Mystics, San Antonio Stars, and Chicago Sky to The Garden on two separate occasions.
There is a lot to look forward to and several key stretches for the Liberty to contend with, so let’s take a deeper look at the 2017 slate.
HOME SWEET HOME
New York opens with a two-game home stand, hosting the Stars and Lynx before hitting the road for two. But after that, the Liberty will return for its longest home stand of the season, five-straight, meaning 7-of-9 to start the year will be played at The Garden.
This is similar to last season when the Libs had a May-June 5-game stand, but New York was just 2-3 during that stretch. Protecting home court will be critical to getting out to a fast start.
BUT THAT HOME STAND IS PRETTY TOUGH
The Liberty does open with quite a few home games, but combined with the two-game western swing to Phoenix and Seattle, New York will face 2016 WNBA playoff teams in 7-of-9 games to start the year, and the opener comes against the Stars, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft.
There is no such thing as a night off in the WNBA, but the Liberty figures to be tested early and often to open the season.
The flip side to having all those early home games is that there are inevitably some lengthy road trips down the stretch. New York will play 6-of-7 on the road starting on June 14, which includes a four-game stretch with trips to Washington, Atlanta, Seattle, and Phoenix. The longest road trip of the year is five games from July 25-August 4, starting in Minnesota and wrapping up in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.
Last year, New York was one of the best road teams in the league, going 11-6 away from The Garden, so relying on that mentality once again will prove to be critical.
With this year’s schedule opening in early May and stretching to just before Labor Day, the Liberty has a little more room to work with fitting in its schedule, and the result is no back-to-back games all season long. After playing five back-to-backs in 2015, the Liberty had just two last year, and are down to zero this season.
• The Liberty opens and closes its home schedule with the Stars. The final regular season game at Madison Square Garden is against San Antonio on Sept. 1.
• New York will see a healthy dose of Seattle and Phoenix during the 1st half of the season. The Liberty will have played all six games against those Western Conference playoff teams, including two trips each to Key Arena and Talking Stick Resort Arena by July 9.
• The Liberty will host its annual School Day game on Wednesday, June 7, as it welcomes the Atlanta Dream to The Garden in what is Atlanta’s only trip of the year to New York. Camp Day will be on Wednesday, July 19, against the Connecticut Sun. New York is not scheduled to see any early tip times on the road.
• The last team to debut at The Garden will be the Indiana Fever. Indiana does not play at New York until Tuesday, August 8, in what will be its only trip to NYC this season. The latest New York will face a team on the road is the Sparks on August 4, its only trip to LA.
• The season opener against the Stars will be New York’s only game on a Saturday all season. The Liberty will see six of its home games played on Sunday afternoon.