There is never a good time for a losing streak. That said, a losing streak at the end of the year as you struggle to get to the playoffs is the absolute worst! The New York Liberty put in another good effort, but they collapsed again late in the fourth quarter and suffered a weakening loss to the Dallas Wings on Saturday night. The win put Dallas in the playoffs, giving Liberty their seventh straight loss and eighth in the final nine. It takes a miracle to get into the playoffs now.
On the other hand, it must be great to be heading into post-season play and playing your best ball of the season. Outside of a blowout loss to the Seattle Storm in the Commissioner Cup, the Connecticut Sun has been at a remarkable pace. They have won the overall No. 1 seed for the playoffs and have been on an absolute tear. They ended Phoenix Mercury’s ten-game winning streak with a nine-point victory Saturday night. W extended Connecticut’s own winning streak to 12 games, and now that they have one seed (and a double goodbye) locked in, it may be possible to control minutes in this final week of the season. A win tonight would set the franchise record for the longest winning streak in the team’s history.
Where to follow the game
CBS Sports Network on TV. Tip after 19.00.
Jocelyn Willoughby is out. This is the cleanest damage sheet of the year.
Alyssa Thomas has been upgraded to probable and is likely to make her season debut. She had been out all year due to an Achilles injury. She still has cracked labrums in both shoulders, but that does not stop her from playing and competing.
Connecticut took game one in June and game two in July.
Here is the playoff position as we go into action tonight:
9. Los Angeles
10. New York
Specifically, Liberty is a full game behind Mystics. Both have two games left, with the two teams facing Friday night in Brooklyn, Lib’s last home game in the base game.
All eyes will be on this one as it is the only match on the schedule tonight.
It seems that the losing streak is consuming the Liberty players, and for a young team, things look bleak. That said, they still have a chance so they can not sink too much into grief. The fight is not over yet, so they have to take care of the mat.
There are two ways to watch Sabrina Ionescu’s game on Saturday. One way is to note that she came to the basket much more when nine of her 17 shot attempts were in the painted area. The other way is to see that she was cold again from the 3-point range as she only went 1-of-6 from the center. Since the break, her 3-point attempts have increased and her percentages have gone far down. Getting to and finishing at the rim promises to be a lot harder tonight, but she has to keep going if she wants to guide the team to a victory.
The sun is a giant force in the WNBA, and it shows in the rebounding numbers. They lead W in rebounding and have two players in the top 10. NY is close to the bottom of the league on the boards so it’s going to take a team effort tonight to keep it close. It starts with Natasha Howard. Liberty changed the starting lineup and started Rebecca Allen ahead of Michaela Onyenwere. They actually won the rebound battle over the Wings (second in the league in rebounding), so that might be a good sign for this one.
This one might turn a little to the sloppy side. These teams are No. 1 and 2 in turnover rate, but in Liberty’s defense it has gotten a lot better than where they were at the start of the season. Against a great team like Connecticut, they will have to make the most of every single possession if they want to pull up and keep their playoff chances alive.
Coach Walt Hopkins recently spoke with The Next Hoops’ Jackie Powell and had this to say about Allen:
“It is clear that Bec will be one of the more valuable players in the league. But I think it’s just a matter of consistency that separates. So it’s like what we talked about with our team. It’s as if Bec is consistent with all this behavior at both ends of the court – as she has been in this stretch – as it continues, I think it will continue to increase in terms of how much she can contribute . ”
An important part of the consistency is how you jump back from a hard night. Allen had a bad outing in Dallas, but has been solid overall this year. They will need her size to fight on the boards, active hands to force turnover and a few knock down threes as well.
Player to watch: Jonquel Jones
Say hello to MVP. Jones has been excellent this year and is currently fourth in the league in scoring, tops in rebounds and 14th on blocks. Jones was also named to the All Star team this year and had a show during a three-point competition
She has some unfinished playoff deals waiting for her, so look for her to be in top form when the stakes get higher.
Betnijah Laney had his best game in a while. Saturday was the first time she shot over 50 percent from the field since July, and after coughing it up nine times against the Storm, it only turned once. The ball must be in her hands as much as possible and the team must trust that she will make something happen. The DeWanna Bonner and Sun defense have made life hard on Laney this year, but now that Ionescu and Howard are fully healthy (or as close to it as one might expect), it could open up some things for Laney. Every bit helps at this point.
From the vault
It was Hall of Fame weekend, and one of the newcomers was former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman. Let’s see her speech:
More reading: Swish Appeal