By Justin “Say Say” Rivers
Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty (10-9, 3rd in Eastern) will head to The Hoosier State looking to extend their winning streak to three games in showdown against the Indiana Fever (2-16, 6th in Eastern).
Last game, the Liberty snagged their tenth win of the season against Arike Ogunbowale and the Dallas Wings, elevating their 2021 record above the .500 mark, matching their 2019 win total, and also securing the franchise’s 400th win in the process. In their 99-96 victory, the team shot 15-for-31 (43.8%) from beyond the three-point arc and their 15 made three-pointers set a new franchise-record. They had already tied the previous franchise mark of 14 made triples twice this season in May. New York was again able to stymie Ogunbowale’s offensive output. With her 12-point, 4-for-12 shooting performance, she put in another abysmally inefficient shooting night against the Liberty – except the Liberty also held her to a sub-20-point game this time out.
For New York, Sami Whitcomb played a team-high 36 minutes, scored a team-high 26 points, made a team-high six triples, and her seven-rebound evening was one shy of the team high in that statistic, too. Sami seemingly could do no wrong Monday as it was her night. Her 53 made triples this season tops the W, and she is top-five in three-point percentage. This season, the 5-foot-10 sharpshooter is averaging 12.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 50.6% shooting from the field and 45.7% shooting from deep. With these numbers, Whitcomb must be a lock for the league’s three-point shootout.
Additionally, New York had four other double-digit scorers. 2020 Most Improved Player and 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney had 18 points on an efficient 8-for-15 shooting from the field. Plus, she was a playmaker by also dishing out seven assists. Jazmine Jones and Reshanda Gray added 16 points and 11 points respectively. Lastly, 2020 top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu had a 13-point, 12-assist game, notching her first double-digit assist game since late May.
Now 2-0 against the Wings this season, the Liberty have one game remaining against Dallas in September, in which they will attempt to sweep the season series.
OBLIGATORY STAT DUMP
Last Monday, the Liberty improved to an undefeated 7-0 when they score 85-plus points in regulation with their 99-96 victory over Dallas.
Including her game-high 26-point performance against Dallas, the Liberty are undefeated, 3-0, when Sami Whitcomb, the human personification of a walking, talking bucket, scores 15-plus points this season.
Prior to Monday, Liberty stars Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu have previously combined for 15-plus dimes twice this season – both wins (05/18/2021 vs. Minnesota and 05/23/2021 at Chicago). Including last game’s combined 19-assist playmaking bonanza, the team is now 3-0 when the duo combine for 15-plus assists.
Lastly, the team had five double-digit scorers versus Dallas: Reshanda Gray (11), Sabrina Ionescu (13), Jazmine Jones (16), Betnijah Laney (18), and Sami Whitcomb (26). In 2021, the team’s record with four-plus double-digit scorers is now 8-3. Additionally, their record with five-plus double-digit scorers improved to a perfect 3-0!
SO FAR THIS SEASON ….
The Indiana Fever and the New York Liberty have gone in opposite directions since their two-game miniseries to open the season, which was highlighted by a Sabrina Ionescu game-winning triple with 0.4 remaining in the season-opener. Since opening the season with back-to-back dubs against the Fever, the Liberty have tallied eight more wins. On the other hand, the Fever have two wins with a 12-game losing skid sandwiched between them since last playing the team from The Big Apple.
IN A BETTER PLACE NOW
Liberty veteran and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard was originally drafted by and began her WNBA career with the Indiana Fever. In 2014, the 6-foot-2 forward was selected by Indiana with the fifth overall pick and proceeded to spend two seasons with the squad from The Hoosier State.
Before her breakout campaign with the Dream in 2020, 2020 Most Improved Player and 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney also played for the Fever in 2019.
Currently 2-0 against Indiana this season, the Liberty will go for the 3-0 sweep in their season series against the 2-16 Fever Friday evening. A victory will give New York their first three-game winning streak since their 3-0 start to the 2021 season going into their last game before the Olympic break against the Sun on Sunday.