By Justin “Say Say” Rivers
Natasha Howard and the New York Liberty (11-16, 3rd in Eastern Conference) will look to snap four-game skid in Minneapolis against Sylvia Fowles and the Minnesota Lynx (15-9, 3rd in Western Conference) in the final game of their three-game season series.
Last game, New York closed out their two-game, home-and-home set against Phoenix. Against the Mercury, the team finished with three double-digit scorers: Natasha Howard (18), Betnijah Laney (14), and Sabrina Ionescu (12).
Natasha Howard paced the Liberty offense with her team-high 18-point, seven-rebound performance. The 6-foot-2 three-time WNBA champ also added three assists and shot an efficient 8-for-14 (57.1%) from the field, including 2-for-4 (50%) from deep.
2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney scored in double figures for the 24th time this season. The 6-foot Clayton, Delaware, native finished with 14 points, six assists, and two rebounds.
With her 12-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist night, 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu finished one assist shy of what would have been her second career triple-double. Since the Olympic break, she has dropped 10+ points in each game.
Currently knotted at a win apiece, New York will attempt to close out their three-game season series against Minnesota with a win on Tuesday.
The WNBA has awarded the Rookie of the Year Award on 23 occasions, and, with five games remaining in the 2021 regular season, Michaela Onyenwere is the surefire front-runner to become only the sixth player to win the award despite not being a top-five draft pick.
She leads all rookies in Minutes Per Game (22.7), Points Per Game (8.7), Blocks Per Game (0.3), total Field Goals (78), and Three-Point Field Goals Made (32). The 6-foot forward is also top-two amongst rookies in Rebounds Per Game (2.7) and top-6 in Assists Per Game (0.6)
This season, she came out the gates strong with an 18-point, five-rebound performance in the Liberty’s season opener against the Fever. In the win, the Aurora, Colorado, native shot an efficient 6-for-12 (50%) from the field and 3-for-6 (50%) from deep. Her 29-point outing six games later was the third highest single-game scoring output by a rookie in franchise history.
With five games left, Onyenwere will look to finish her rookie season strong and become the first Liberty rookie to win Rookie of the Year in franchise history.
Last time these two squads matched up, the Liberty’s Natasha Howard flirted with a new career-high in scoring with her 30-point explosion in her first game back from injury. In the game, Howard paced the Liberty offense and went 13-for-22 from the field – establishing career-highs in makes and attempts. She also tied a career-high for points in a half with her 20-point first half.
In her first eight games with New York, Howard has been an integral part of the Liberty’s frontcourt on both ends of the floor. She has had a team-high in scoring thrice, a team-high in rebounds twice, and two double-doubles. Since the Olympic break, the 6-foot-2 forward/center is averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
For the opposition, the Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles had a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double in their August 15th matchup. This season, Fowles, who’s a top-10 scorer in the WNBA, leads the league in Field Goal Percentage (62.5) and is also top-two in Rebounds Per Game (10.0), Steals Per Game (1.9), and Blocks Per Game (1.8).
The former teammates are slated to share the court again on Tuesday, and this marquee matchup on the inside is a must-watch.