No moral victories for desperate Liberty
Look to snap season-high seven-game slide at Connecticut
Walt Hopkins has had enough of moral victories.
Mainly because his New York Liberty need a real one if they hope to reach the WNBA playoffs.
“It’s frustrating to be a broken record and you keep saying that, you know there’s growth, and that there’s, there’s a lot of good,” Hopkins begrudgingly told the media following Saturday night’s gutwrenching 77-76 loss at playoff-bound Dallas.
“But man there was a lot good, and you know this stuff does pay off, just unfortunately takes time,”
Time is something the Liberty (11-19) are short on.
New York has lost a season-high seven in a row, 10 of its last 11 and is one game out of the final WNBA playoff spot with two games remaining, including Wednesday’s visit to league-best Connecticut (24-6).
The Liberty trail Washington (12-18) and are tied with Los Angeles (11-19) heading into the season’s final week.
But they will host the Mystics at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Friday in a regular-season finale that could have playoff implications for several teams.
New York was engaged in one of those last weekend in Dallas, but squandered a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead before Sabrina Ionescu’s bid for a go-ahead basket at the buzzer got swatted away by Allisha Gray as the Wings (13-17) held on to the No. 7 seed and clinched a spot in the playoffs.
“It feels amazing,” Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson said. “The one thing we talked about before the game as a team: we don’t want anybody else to determine our destiny. We wanted to do it on our own.
Marina Mabrey scored 21 points and Gray added 13 and 11 rebounds for Dallas, which outscored New York 21-10 over the final 10 minutes to keep the Liberty winless since an 83-79 win over defending WNBA champion Seattle here on Aug. 18.
The Liberty have lost a handful of heartbreakers since, but Hopkins is clearly getting tired of talking about progress on the court when his team, which began the campaign 5-1, is plummeting in the standings.
“I’m urging them to continue to celebrate the growth, and all the corners that they’re turning out there was a point in that season where we would have lost this game by a lot more than that,” he noted.
Losing has become contagious since New York’s hot start.
The Liberty have won just six of their last 24 contests after bursting to the top of the standings in May.
Now if they can find a way to win their last two contests, they’ll likely be playoff bound after finishing with the league’s worst record in each of the previous two seasons.
But achieving that lofty feat must begin with a win in Connecticut against a Sun team that has already beaten the Liberty twice this year.
“We’ve been working on staying together, day after day in practice,” said Liberty forward Natasha Howard, who put up 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds vs. the Wings Saturday.
All-Star Betnijah Laney scored a team-high 19 points and Ionescu finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for New York, which hasn’t won consecutive games since July 3-5.
If they fail to do so Wednesday and Friday, the Liberty will have the entire offseason to build on their collective improvement this year.
Finishing the season in a playoff series, however, would be even more encouraging.
“If we put everything together and do what we need to do, we can get a victory,” Howard said.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb recorded her 250th career assists in Dallas and also drained four 3-pointers en route to 12 points. … If New York remains alive heading into Friday, Liberty fans can attend a win-or-go-home season finale at Barclays vs. Washington. The game tips off at 7 p.m. … The Nets traded Jaylen Hands from their G-League affiliate on Long Island to the arch rival New York Knicks on Monday for Bryce Brown, who appeared in nine games last season, averaging 5.4 points per contest.
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