Libs look for revenge, 3-0 trip in Minny
Eastern Conference leaders eager to get back at Lynx
The New York Liberty will be in Minnesota Friday night looking to atone for the one that got away.
Off to the best start in franchise history and coming off a 9-2 July, the Liberty (20-6) began August with Tuesday night’s 76-69 victory in Los Angeles.
The Eastern Conference leaders, who swept their two-game set against the Sparks, have revenge on their minds as they head to Minnesota on Friday looking to complete a 3-0 road trip at Target Center.
The Lynx (13-14) are responsible for New York’s only loss in the last seven contests, an 88-83 setback at Downtown’s Barclays Center last Friday night.
The Liberty, who were trying to finish off a 4-0 homestand and complete their first five-game winning streak of the year, fell behind early and were never able to overtake the Lynx, who were without All-Star forward Napheesa Collier due to an ankle injury.
Though they got 31 points from Sabrina Ionescu and 23 out of reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month and fellow All-Star Breanna Stewart, the Liberty found themselves trailing for good after a first quarter-ending 17-2 run by Minnesota.
“We got a little complacent. … They got more aggressive, started making shots and it just dried up for us,” said New York head coach Sandy Brondello.
“A little fatigue set in,” she admitted after her unit played its fifth game in seven days.
The Liberty quickly rebounded with back-to-back wins in L.A., remaining one game ahead of second-place Connecticut (19-7) in the East.
But Stewart, the front-runner to grab WNBA Most Valuable Player honors after earning her fourth Player of the Week and second Player of the Month awards this week, lamented what could have been that night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“We know the run we gave up to Minnesota in the first quarter,” she noted. “They moved the ball really well, they moved, they cut, We could have communicated better. It should have been a simple fix.”
Simple or not, they’ll get their chance to fix what went wrong Friday against a Lynx squad that has gone 13-8 since an 0-6 start to the campaign, moving from dead last to sixth position in the ongoing WNBA playoff race.
Rookie Diamond Miller, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, poured in 22 points against the Liberty in the first meeting between the teams.
That contest was originally scheduled for June 7 at Barclays before the air quality issues in New York caused by last month’s Canadian wildfires forced a postponement.
“She’s not afraid of the big moment,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Miller. “Lots of times rookies can be intimidated. Look at some of the names on the other side. The rookies we had were excited for the moment.”
Miller’s contribution and Kayla McBride’s 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting led to Minnesota’s second straight victory and made Collier’s absence a non-factor.
“It was a tough one. It wasn’t pretty,” Brondello bemoaned.
After extending their winning streak to three games in Connecticut in the first half of a two-game set, the Lynx suffered a 79-69 loss to the Sun on Tuesday.
Lindsay Allen scored 16 points, McBride had 15 and Miller finished with 13 for Minnesota, which is looking to take the season series from New York berore the squads meet for the third and final time at Target Center on Aug. 26.
Ionescu, the reigning WNBA All-Star Weekend 3-Point Shootout champion and league leader this year in shots made per game from beyond the arc, isn’t interested in playing from behind in this rematch.
“We’ve had many games where we were able to come back from (early deficits),” she said. “But (last Friday) was another example of if we don’t come from the start and bring our ‘A’ game, we’re going to get beat.
“It might be a real good wake-up call for us to go into this next stretch of games on the road and try to get three of them.”
They’ve got two so far.
The third is waiting for them Friday night in Minnesota.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Courtney Vandersloot, the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists and averaging a team-best 8.0 helpers per contest this year, scored 20 of her season-high 23 points in the second half of Tuesday’s win in Los Angeles. The future Hall of Fame point guard was benefiting from the Sparks paying too much attention to Ionescu, who went 3-of-12 from the floor compared to Vandersloot’s 9-of-14 effort, which included a season-best four 3-pointers. “My teammates were finding me. I was open for catch-and-shoot 3s. I was just knocking them down,” said Vandersloot, who also added seven rebounds and six assists to her impressive stat line. … After visiting Minnesota, the Liberty will return to Brooklyn Sunday afternoon to host the league-leading Las Vegas Aces (24-2). The conference-leading teams are slated to meet for the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup on Aug. 15 in Sin City.
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