Brooklyn Boro

Liberty cruise past Wings at Barclays

Laney, Howard pace New York to fifth win in six games

May 25, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Back-to-backs proved to be no problem for the New York Liberty as their magical first season in Brooklyn continued Monday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Betnijah Laney poured in 26 points and Natasha Howard added 17 before leaving with an apparent injury as the Liberty won their second game in as many days, 88-81, over the visiting Dallas Wings in front of 894 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Originally scheduled for Tuesday night, the game was moved up a day to accomodate the Brooklyn Nets, who will host the Boston Celtics here Tuesday in Game 2 of their best-of-7 first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

That left the Liberty (5-1), fresh off a 93-85 victory in Chicago on Sunday, to get back to Brooklyn and be ready to battle the Wings (1-2), who took a 22-17 lead after one quarter.

Laney, who reached the 20-point plateau in a team-record sixth consecutive game to start the season, helped our borough’s WNBA franchise begin the second half on a 10-2 run to snap a 39-39 tie at intermission.

She went 9-of-15 from the field, 7-of-9 from the line and handed out three assists for the Liberty, who have won two straight since suffering their only loss of the young season Friday night in Washington, D.C.

Sabrina Ionescu, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, added 15 points and nine rebounds for New York. She scored eight points in a row at one point in the fourth quarter to help the Liberty pull away for good.

“It means a lot. We wanted to start the season how we knew that we could. It’s awesome to see that it’s showing, it’s not taking a long time to build this,” said the 23-year-old superstar.

“It’s been really awesome. Obviously we’re not done yet.”

Howard left the game after logging 22 minutes, but Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins did not have any information regarding the nature or severity of the injury.

“We don’t know anything right now,” Hopkins said. “We’ll get some tests done (Tuesday). We have our fingers crossed.”

Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins wasn’t expecting a 5-1 start after leading New York to a league-worst 2-20 record last season. AP Photo by Eileen T. Meslar

Arike Ogunbowale had 25 points for Dallas, which will be back here on July 5.

Winners of five of their first six games for the first time since 2007, the Liberty, who went a league-worst 2-20 at the WNBA’s bubble site in Bradenton, Florida last summer, look to continue their hot start Thursday vs. Atlanta.

“I didn’t know we’d be 5-1. I didn’t know what we’d be,” Hopkins told the New York Post.

“I just knew I wanted us to play really hard and to learn how to execute and play together. The 5-1 is a by-product of this group and their buy-in to everything that we’re asking of them. It’s just been remarkable.”

It could get even more so, if the Liberty follow the Nets’ lead into the playoffs in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever WNBA championship.

Sabrina Ionescu was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week just before helping the Liberty to another win in Downtown Brooklyn. AP Photo by Eileen T. Meslar


GIVE ME LIBERTY: Ionescu’s Player of the Week honor was the first of her budding career. The University of Oregon alum and two-time Wooden Award winner as the best player in the NCAA posted her first career WNBA triple-double, hit a buzzer beater to give New York an Opening Night win at Barclays and put up 19 points and 12 boards in Sunday’s win in Chicago. Ionescu, who was sidelined for all but three games last year due to an ankle injury, averaged 18.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 34.6 minutes per game while shooting 41.5 percent from the field, 48.5 percent from 3-point range and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line last week. … Howard, who was acquired in February but didn’t make her Liberty debut until Sunday at Chicago, scored 12 points vs. the Sky. … After hosting Atlanta on Saturday, the Liberty will complete their three-game homestand next Thursday vs. Las Vegas. … Laney, who is just three 20-point games shy of tying Tina Charles’ franchise record for consecutive contests with at least that amount, shook off talk of the Liberty’s hot start by insisting that they weren’t really all that bad last year. “I really don’t believe that the win column really depicted what this team was capable of last year, especially with Sabrina going down as early as she did in those first three games,” she said.

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