By Justin “Say Say” Rivers
Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty (11-17, 3rd in Eastern Conference) will look to snap five-game skid in Seattle against Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm (18-10, 2nd in Western Conference) in the third and final game of their three-game season series.
Last game, the Liberty opened their four-game road trip with a stop in the Twin Cities to take on Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx. In this matchup, three Liberty players scored in double figures: Sabrina Ionescu (17), Betnijah Laney (17), and Michaela Onyenwere (11).
After coming one assist shy of a triple-double in the last game, 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu had another all-around performance finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Her 17 points tied for a team-high and marked her 16th game scoring in double figures this season, as well as seventh consecutive double-digit scoring outing following the Olympic break.
2021 WNBA All-Star Betnijah Laney tied the team-high 17 points, three rebounds, and two assists. Tuesday’s game marked the 25th time that she eclipsed double figures in scoring this season.
With her 11-point, 10-rebound performance, Rookie of the Year candidate Michaela Onyenwere finished with not only a career-high in rebounds, but also her first-career double-double.
With their season series currently knotted at a game apiece, New York will try to capitalize on these individual performances when they take on Natasha Howard and Most Improved Player candidate Sami Whitcomb’s former team.
Highlighted by her 26-point, eight-assist outing in their second meeting, Sami Whitcomb is averaging 17.5 points, five assists, and 4.5 rebounds against her former squad. Whitcomb, whose 69 made triples lead the WNBA, is shooting 11-for-19 (57.9%) from the field and 6-for-10 (60%) from deep in the series. After returning to the lineup in Tuesday’s game against the Lynx, she will look to continue her phenomenal play against the Storm.
Against the Storm this season, Sabrina Ionescu and WNBA All-Defensive Team candidate, Rebecca Allen, have scored 10+ points in both matchups. Ionescu is averaging 13 points, 6.5 rebounds, and four assists while shooting 8-for-17 (47.1%) from the field. Allen has compiled a series average of 15 points and four rebounds on an impressive 9-for-16 (56.2%) shooting from deep.
For the Storm, three-time All-Star Jewell Loyd has been their top performer against the Liberty this season. In the series opener, she had a career-high-tying 35-point explosion, which included a 21-point third quarter. She then dropped 29 points in their second matchup. This season, Loyd is averaging 32 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game against the Liberty on 21-for-39 (53.9%) shooting.
FOUR GAMES LEFT
With four games remaining in their regular season, the Liberty currently hold the eighth and final spot in the WNBA playoff picture. Although they are a game behind the seventh-seeded Dallas Wings, the ninth and tenth-ranked teams are within half a game of them. As such, another victory against the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm would help maintain the Liberty’s playoff positioning for what would be the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2017.