Game Preview: Liberty Look to Rebound in the Capital of Second Chances Against the Aces

By Justin “Say Say” Rivers

After dropping the opening game in this two-game road series, Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty (6-5, 2nd in Eastern Conference) are heading into their rematch with the Las Vegas Aces (9-3, 2nd in Western Conference) looking to get back into the win column.

On Tuesday, Coach Walt Hopkin’s squad successfully limited Las Vegas’ stars, Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson, who had a 30-point double-double in their June 3rd meeting. They limited Wilson and Cambage to ten and 14 points, respectively, and successfully kept both from making a living from the charity stripe. Jazmine Jones came off the bench and paced the Liberty with 17 points on 6-8 shooting, while Laney had an efficient 16-point, six-assist night, and Kylee Shook finished with a career-high 12 points and nine rebounds – just one rebound shy of a double-double. On Thursday, New York will need another all-around scoring effort to pull out the victory.

STAT WORTH KNOWING

In their 11 contests, the Liberty are undefeated – YES – a perfect 5-0, when they score 85 or more points in regulation. As a top-5 team in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and points per game, the Liberty are not only potent offensively, but they are efficient on the offensive end of the floor, too.

TIME TO VOTE!

Having tipped off on Tuesday, voting for this season’s AT&T WNBA All-Star game is underway, and Betnijah Laney has been nothing short of an All-Star-caliber superstar during her first season in the Big Apple. Coming off of her breakout 2020 campaign, during which she took home the WNBA’s Most Improved Player Award, Laney has been everything for which the Liberty could have hoped. After averaging 17.2 points per game last season for the Dream, she has further transformed into a top-5 scorer in 2021 – averaging 20.5 points per game on an efficient 49.4% from the floor and 37.2% from behind the three-point arc. Having started in all 11 of the Liberty’s contests, the 6-foot forward has been a critical component to the team’s success as a top offense in the league.

Another Liberty player that is more than worthy of an All-Star game selection is Sabrina Ionescu. The 5-foot-11 guard and former No. 1 overall pick out of Oregon has been sensational this season. After being out of the lineup for the past two games, she’s currently listed as probable for Thursday’s rematch. Thus far during her sophomore campaign, Ionescu is averaging 13.7 points and 7.1 assists per game in nine games this season and is shooting an impressive 41.5% from deep. Moreover, Ionescu is top-2 in the WNBA in assists, and her playmaking has helped propel the Liberty to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Her all-around game makes her a phenom on the court that commands the attention of opposing defenses, and she is more than worthy of an All-Star selection.

Given that fan voting counts for 50 percent of the vote, they have a monumental impact on the on-court competition and who gets selected; as such, show Betnijah and Sabrina some love by voting for them at WNBA.com/vote and/or on the WNBA App.

OH, BY THE WAY

Betnijah ranks fourth in Liberty franchise history for the most points scored in a single game against the Aces (including Utah and San Antonio), which she set on June 3rd with a 23-point outing. The current record of 27 is held by Rebecca Lobo (August 19, 1997) and Shameka Christon (July 8, 2008). This is definitely a record that she is more than capable of eclipsing in Thursday’s matchup. Stay tuned!