Liberty enjoying well-deserved rest
Extended break welcome as six-game road trip continues
After playing five games in seven days, the Eastern Conference-leading New York Liberty deserved a hiatus during their longest road trip of the year.
Especially after Breanna Stewart became the first player in WNBA history to record her third 40-point game in a single season in Indiana, the Liberty captured the first championship hardware in franchise history in Las Vegas and then ran over the Mercury in Phoenix.
“Now we can relax a little bit. Go home, get some rest and prepare for who we have next,” said New York forward Betnijah Laney after scoring 22 points in last Friday night’s 85-63 victory over the Mercury in front of 9.652 fans at the Footprint Center.
Sabrina Ionescu and Marine Johannes each added 18 points for the Liberty (25-7), who had to be exhausted after dropping an 88-75 decision to Las Vegas the previous night.
Of course, New York did have plenty of fun in Sin City on Aug. 15, when it breezed to an 82-63 rout over the Aces at Michelob ULTRA Arena to grab the Commissioner’s Cup and hand Vegas its first home loss of the campaign.
Stewart, who put up 42 points during a 100-89 triumph over Indiana in the opener of this six-game trip on Aug. 13, had 12 points and eight rebounds in Phoenix.
“It’s a take care of business game,” New York coach Sandy Brondello noted minutes after the Liberty maintained their three-game lead over second-place Connecticut in the East.
The Liberty won’t be back in action until Thursday night, when they visit the Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The grueling stretch began back in Brooklyn with an 89-73 win over Chicago and ended with Friday night’s triumph in Phoenix.
“We knew that it was an important game for us,” said Johannes, who drilled a quartet of 3-pointers against the Mercury. “Playing in back-to-back is not easy. … We just had to switch and be ready.”
New York was challenged early by short-handed Phoenix (9-23), which was without star Brittney Griner due to health and safety protocols.
The Liberty held a three-point lead early in the second half before using a 32-16 third quarter to put the Mercury away.
“That’s something we put an emphasis on. In previous years we didn’t always start the second half the way we do now,” noted Laney, who went 9-of-13 from the floor.
Johannes is emerging as New York’s most lethal threat off the bench of late. She had a game-high 17 points in the Commissioner’s Cup win in Vegas, knocking down five 3-pointers, and was the Liberty’s top reserve scorer again in Phoenix.
“She’s being aggressive now. We need Marine to be Marine,” said Brondello, pointing to Johannes’ recent scoring surge.
After visiting the Sun, the Liberty will be in Minnesota Saturday night before finally playing back on the Barclays Center hardwood Monday in their much-anticipated final regular-season showdown against Vegas.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: With her 205th career coaching victory against Phoenix Friday night, Brondello tied former Liberty coach Anne Donovan for eighth place all-time in WNBA history. … Ionescu is 12 3-pointers away from the league record of 121 in a single season. … The Liberty will play four of their final six regular-season games in Brooklyn.
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