Liberty look to pull away from Sun
New York can move closer to securing top seed in East
Winners of eight of their last nine games, the red-hot New York Liberty can cool down the Connecticut Sun’s hopes of overtaking them for the top spot in the Eastern Conference Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Liberty (25-7), who have already beaten the Sun (23-10) twice this season, can claim the season series from Connecticut and move 3 1/2 lengths in front of the defending conference champions with seven games to play.
New York eclipsed the Sun, 81-65, at Barclays Center on May 27 behind Breanna Stewart’s 27 points.
The Liberty backed that up in their last visit to Connecticut on June 27 as Stewart poured in 24 points and former Sun star Jonquel Jones added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
New York rebounded from its lone loss in the last three weeks, an 88-75 setback at Las Vegas, with Friday’s 85-63 win in Phoenix.
Betnijah Laney scored 22 points and Sabrina Ionescu added 18 for the Liberty, who improved to 3-1 on their ongoing six-game road trip.
Having played their fifth game in seven days, including an Aug. 15 Commissioner’s Cup championship game triumph at Vegas, the Liberty were relieved to get some well-deserved rest before this tilt.
“Now we can relax a little bit. Go home, get some rest and prepare for who we have next,” said Laney.
Jones spent her first six seasons in Connecticut, helping the Sun to two WNBA Finals appearances, including a year ago. The 2021 league MVP has posted 11 double-doubles for New York this season.
Connecticut has played twice since the Liberty ran past the Mercury, beating Chicago, 79-73, on Sunday before edging Washington, 68-64, Tuesday night.
Alyssa Thomas led the Sun with 22 points in each contest. The WNBA’s all-time leader with nine career triple-doubles, including a record-setting five this year, Thomas is averaging 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season.
She had 11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals the last time the Liberty were in Connecticut.
If New York can beat the Sun again, it would assure itself a tiebreaker advantage should the teams finish in a first-place tie at the end of the season.
The Liberty can also help coach Sandy Brondello climb the all-time wins chart Thursday. She is currently tied for eighth place with former Liberty coach Anne Donovan with 205 victories.
But Brondello, who is hoping to guide New York to its first-ever WNBA crown this season, is doubtlessly more interested in getting more breathing room in the race for the top spot in the East.
If the Liberty lose Thursday, they’ll be under more pressure to put Connecticut away in the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the squads on Sept. 1 in Brooklyn.
Both teams have already secured postseason berths.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: After visiting Connecticut, the Liberty will visit Minnesota on Saturday night. They’ll be back at Barclays Center Monday for their final regular-season showdown with league-leading Vegas before hosting the Sun Friday night. … New York is three games behind the Aces for the best record in the league, though their Commissioner’s Cup win at Vegas won’t count toward that goal. The Liberty did climb over the Aces for the first time this week in the AP WNBA power poll.
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