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Liberty strive for five in Windy City

Look to complete longest winning streak of season vs. Sky

August 10, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Maybe the fifth time will be the charm.

As in the fifth time the New York Liberty try to complete their first five-game winning streak of the year.

The Eastern Conference leaders will once again vie for their longest run of success during a banner campaign as they host the Chicago Sky Friday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

The Liberty (22-6) have won as many as four in a row on four previous occasions on their way to the best start in franchise history.

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They accomplished the feat from May 21 to June 2 before suffering an 86-82 loss to the Sky (12-16) here on June 4 on the back end of a home-and-home series.

New York reeled off another four straight from June 18 to June 27, but that streak ended with a crushing 98-81 loss to WNBA-leading and defending champion Las Vegas on June 29.

The Liberty sprang back to life immediately following that humbling defeat, knocking off four straight opponents from July 21 to July 27. However, they dropped an 88-83 decision to Minnesota on July 28 in a make-up for the game previously postponed due to air quality issues in our borough.

Again, New York reeled off four in a row leading into this contest, the last of which was Sunday’s 99-61 blowout of the Aces, a victory that moved the Liberty ever closer to contending with Vegas in the league’s power rankings.

Now, playoff-hopeful Chicago, which sits in the coveted eighth and final WNBA playoff spot, 1 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles, comes to Barclays looking to bounce back from its first loss in four contests, an 88-79 setback to visiting Minnesota at Winstrust Arena.

Kahleah Copper scored 23 points for the Sky, who haven’t seen the Liberty since ending their first four-game win streak of the year back in June.

“Hopefully this is a wake-up. Some players need to wake up a little bit more. We went away from what worked for us,” New York head coach Sandy Brondello said that night.

Courtney Vandersloot climbed into second place on the WNBA’s all-time assists list Sunday vs. Vegas at Barclays Center. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

The Liberty have certainly rung the alarm bells of late.

They blew past the Aces with a 30-9 third-quarter run Sunday, setting up what should be a pair of colossal showdowns between the league’s “Super Teams” on Aug. 15 for the Commissioner’s Cup crown and again two days later in Sin City.

But first, New York must keep its focus on Chicago.

“The players are staying locked in with how we want to play,” Brondello noted this weekend.

“A lot of fun. We have so many weapons and ways we can attack,” added All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu, who finished with 31 points vs. Vegas. “We’re just a tough team to beat.”

Former Chicago point guard Courtney Vandersloot handed out six assists against the Aces, moving into second place on the WNBA’s all-time list with 2,600 helpers over her 13-year career.

The future Hall of Famer spent her first dozen seasons in the Windy City, signing a free-agent deal this past offseason to help the Liberty grab their first-ever league crown.

Most Valuable Player candidate Breanna Stewart put up 23 points against Vegas on Sunday as the Liberty played in front of the biggest crowd yet — 11,418 — for a WNBA game on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“I think we need to just appreciate the amount of people that came out tonight,” said Stewart. “Great teams, they use home-court advantage a lot.”

While Chicago gave New York a dose of reality following its first four-game winning streak two months ago, the Liberty are feeling wide awake for this encounter, especially following their most impressive win of the year.

“It’s just a wake-up call of how good we can actually be, and that’s the standard of New York basketball,” Ionescu said. “Now we have to continue to get better throughout the next month.”

Jonquel Jones has grabbed 31 rebounds in her last two games for the Liberty heading into Friday night’s showdown with Chicago in Downtown Brooklyn. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Forward Jonquel Jones has grabbed at least 11 rebounds in eight of her last nine games, including 14 vs. the Aces on Sunday. The 2021 WNBA MVP as a member of the Connecticut Sun, Jones had a season-high 17 boards at Minnesota last Friday. “J.J. has been a monster lately,” Brondello gushed. … After hosting Chicago, the Liberty will head to Indiana on Sunday to take on the Fever before their Tuesday night visit to Michelob Ultra Arena in Vegas for the Commissioner’s Cup Final. The teams will meet against on Aug. 17 in Sin City before their final regular-season encounter here in Brooklyn on Aug. 28.

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