Game Preview: Seventh and Eighth Seed Matchup Between Wings and Liberty in Dallas

By Justin “Say Say” Rivers

Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty (11-18, No. 8 overall seed) head to the Lone Star State to close out their three-game season series against Arike Ogunbowale and the Dallas Wings (12-17, No. 7 overall seed).

Last game, the New York Liberty traveled to the Pacific Northwest to take on the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm in the third and final game of their three-game season series. In the Liberty’s narrow loss, three players scored in double figures: Sabrina Ionescu (20), Rebecca Allen (17), and Natasha Howard (15).

Against the Storm, Sabrina Ionescu finished with a team-high 20 points and seven assists. In the opening period, she scored 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 (100%) shooting from the field, including two made three-point field goals. Surpassing her 10-point first quarter on July 29th, 2020, her 12-point first quarter on September 2nd set a new career-high for first-quarter points.

WNBA All-Defensive Team candidate, Rebecca Allen, totaled 17 points on 5-for-11 (45.5%) shooting from the field along with two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Highlighted by her 11-point third quarter, the 6-foot-2 Aussie’s performance marked her fifth double-digit scoring game in her last six appearances.

In her return to Seattle, Natasha Howard finished the contest with 15 points, six rebounds, and two steals on 7-for-11 (63.6%) shooting from the field.

BACK TO BACK … TO BACK

On September 2, the WNBA announced New York Liberty rookie forward Michaela Onyenwere has earned the Kia WNBA Rookie of the Month award for August, marking her third-consecutive Rookie of the Month award. Michaela’s August campaign was highlighted by her 11-point, career-high 10-rebound performance in Minnesota that marked her first-career double-double.

Onyenwere, the 2021 No. 6 overall selection, is currently the rookie leader in points per game (8.7), minutes per game (23.2), total field goals made (82), and total three-pointers made (35). She is also top-2 in rebounds per game (3.0).

In September, the now back-to-back-to-back Rookie of the Month will look to become only the fifth player since the inception of the WNBA Rookie of the Month award in 2010 to sweep the award for an entire season (A’ja Wilson 2018, Breanna Stewart 2016, Elena Delle Donne 2013, Tina Charles 2010).

TOP PERFORMERS

Highlighted by her game-high 26-point night on 8-for-15 (53.3%) shooting from the field in the series opener, 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney is averaging 22 points and five assists per game on an efficient 17-for-30 (56.7%) shooting from the field, including 3-for-7 (42.9%) from deep, against Dallas this season.

In their first meeting versus the Wings, 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu had a team-high nine rebounds and a career-high-tying 12 assists in the second matchup. Averaging 14 points, 7.5 assists, and six rebounds per game through the two meetings, Ionescu is shooting 8-for-15 (53.3%) from the field and 5-for-9 (55.6%) from beyond the arc.

The 5-foot-11 guard also holds the Liberty’s record for the most single-game points against the Dallas/Tulsa/Detroit franchise with 33, which is her career-high set on July 29, 2020 in just her third-career WNBA game.

Most Improved Player candidate Sami Whitcomb is averaging 17.5 points and five rebounds per game against Dallas. The WNBA’s leader in made triples is shooting 9-for-19 (47.4%) from three-point range in the series and dropped a game-high 26 points in their meeting on July 5.

For the Wings, 2021 All-Star MVP Arike Ogunbowale has paced Dallas’s scoring offense in the series. She is averaging 18 points and three assists in the series; however, the 5-foot-8 guard is only shooting 10-for-32 (31.3%) from the field through the two contests.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Already up 2-0 in the season series, the Liberty will go into the College Park Center looking to earn a much-needed victory and series sweep against the Wings. Dallas is currently ranked seventh in the league standings and is just one game ahead of New York whose eighth. With the start of the playoffs less than two weeks away, this game could prove to be pivotal down the stretch of the regular season with post-season seeding.