By Justin “Say Say” Rivers
The New York Liberty (11-19, No. 10 seed) head to the Constitution State to complete their three-game season series against the league-leading Connecticut Sun (24-6, No. 1 seed).
Last game, the Liberty took on the Dallas Wings in the third and final game of their three-game season series at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. In last Saturday’s showdown, four Liberty players scored in double figures: Betnijah Laney (19), Sabrina Ionescu (18), Natasha Howard (16), and Sami Whitcomb (12).
Against the Wings, 2021 WNBA All-Star Betnijah Laney dropped a team-high 19 points on 7-for-13 (53.9%) shooting from the field. The All-WNBA candidate also dished out six assists, which tied for a team-high, and pulled down four rebounds.
With her 18-point, eight-rebound, six-assist night, 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu put in another all-around performance. The second-year guard shot 7-for-17 (41.2%) from the field and blocked two shots.
2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard finished the contest with 16 points, a team-high 11 rebounds, and a season-high four assists. The three-time WNBA champion shot an efficient 8-for-14 (57.1%) from the field, and her 16-point, 11-rebound performance marked her third double-double of the season. All three of her double-doubles this season have come since the Olympic break.
In her return to the Liberty starting lineup, the WNBA’s second leading three-point shooter Sami Whitcomb knocked down four triples on 4-for-7 (57.1%) and finished with 12 points.
The team will look to capitalize on these strong individual performances as they attempt to get their first win of the season against Connecticut.
Three-time WNBA champion and 2019 All-WNBA selection, Natasha Howard, was absent from the Liberty’s two previous meetings with the Sun this season.
Since returning to the lineup after the Olympic break, the 6-foot-2 forward is averaging 14.6 points and seven rebounds per game, including three point-rebound double-doubles through nine contests.
Her presence against the Sun on Wednesday could be the key to the Liberty’s first win in this season’s three-game series. So far this season, the Liberty have been out-rebounded and out-scored in both points in the paint and second chance points by the Sun in both meetings.
Howard, being a two-way, inside-outside threat, can help tip those statistics in New York’s favor and give the team a former Defensive Player of the Year to matchup against Jonquel Jones who spearheads Connecticut’s tall and lengthy lineup.
In two games against Connecticut this season, second-year guard Jazmine Jones is averaging nine points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game
In these matchups, Sabrina Ionescu is averaging five rebounds and four assists per game.
In their first matchup this season, Rebecca Allen finished with a team-high 14 points off the bench on an efficient 5-for-10 (50%) shooting from the field, including 4-for-7 (57.1%) from three-point range.
Against New York this season, MVP candidate Jonquel Jones has led the way for Connecticut. In their two matchups this season, the 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds per game on 18-for-30 (60%) shooting from the field, including 5-for-12 (41.7%) from deep.
Despite Saturday’s loss to the Wings, the Liberty are a game behind the Mystics for the eighth and final playoff spot. Both teams have two contests remaining in their regular season slate of games, including a head-to-head matchup on Friday to decide the winner of their three-game season series.
However, the Liberty need to first get a much-needed win against the Sun to control their own destiny and keep their playoff aspirations alive, because, if they go 2-0 in their last two games, they’ll punch their ticket to the dance for the first time since 2017.