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Liberty looking to spread the wealth

Shooting for two-game sweep of Sparks as assists pile up

August 1, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The WNBA’s “Super Team” is specializing in sharing the ball.

That’s a trend the New York Liberty hope to continue Tuesday night when they try to close out a two-game road sweep of the Los Angeles Sparks.

“I just think we did a better job moving the ball and getting everyone involved compared to the last game,” said Liberty sharp-shooter Marine Johannes following Sunday’s 87-79 victory over the Sparks in front of 8,139 fans at Arena.

Johannes, who had her 15 points on a 5-of-5 performance from 3-point range in the first half, was only part of the reason New York (19-6) rebounded from Friday night’s disappointing 88-83 loss to Minnesota at Barclays Center.

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The Liberty, off to the best 25-game start in franchise history, watched the Lynx run past them early with a 19-2 run that thwarted what would have been a perfect 4-0 homestand.

New York managed 20 assists against Minnesota, shy of their league-best 24.3-assist average.

Johannes’ early shooting clinic and New York’s tenacity on the floor and generosity with the ball helped lead to a 21-2 start in L.A. on Sunday.

“I think we were limiting them to tough shots and we were rebounding the ball,” said Liberty forward and MVP candidate Breanna Stewart. “We know the run we gave up to Minnesota in the first quarter.”

“Every time we can get out and get the lead, it’s because we’re making right decisions and the ball is getting in the right hands,” added New York head coach Sandy Brondello.

Though there was a comeback by the Sparks late in the fourth quarter, the Liberty held on for their fifth win in six games by becoming just the second team in any WNBA campaign to have at least 12 games with 25-plus assists.

That’s with 15 contests remaining in the first-ever 40-game WNBA regular season.

In the opener of this set, New York dished out 26 helpers, nine of which came from the sure hands of the league’s season and all-time assists leader, Courtney Vandersloot.

“The growth, the comfortability that we have with each other,” said Stewart after putting up a team-high 25 points against the Sparks.”As we move the ball from side-to-side, we have a lot of options.”

Marine Johannes nailed all five of her first-half 3-pointers during New York’s win in Los Angeles on Sunday. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

All-Star 3-point champion Sabrina Ionescu scored 14 points and Jonquel Jones added 13 and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Liberty, who beat L.A. by a 42-25 margin on the boards.

“Just making sure to limit them to one shot and one possession,” noted Stewart, who also had nine rebounds and a trio of blocked shots Sunday.

Following an offseason haul that garnered them Jones, Stewart and Vandersloot, the Liberty could have become much more superstar-centric this year.

Instead, they are atop the Eastern Conference standings by one game over Connecticut due to their willingness to look for the open shot, no matter who winds up taking it.

“They’re very unselfish,” Brondello said of her charges. “The ball movement, the defense when we’re locked in. We’ll carry that over and there’s areas we’ll get better. Like transition defense.”

The Sparks (9-18), who are one game behind Chicago for the eighth and final WNBA playoff spot, were coming off a two-game home sweep of Indiana before running into the Liberty.

Dearica Hamby scored 21 points and Jordin Canada added 17 Sunday for Los Angeles, which has lost nine of its last 11 games.

Tuesday’s rematch will be televised on NBA TV at 10 p.m. ET.

Jonquel Jones keeps piling up double-doubles for the Eastern Conference-leading New York Liberty. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Jones has put up at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in five of her last six games. … In the series opener, Stewart became the second player in WNBA history to record at least 500 points, 200 rebounds, and 50 3s through 25 games. She joined Maya Moore, who did it during her 2014 MVP season for Minnesota. … After finishing up with the Sparks Tuesday night, the Liberty will close out this three-game homestand against the Lynx on Friday. New York will return to Downtown Brooklyn on Sunday to host league-best and defending WNBA champion Las Vegas (23-2).

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