Streaking Liberty following Stewart’s lead
New York looks for eighth straight win at Barclays Center
It’s easy to play follow the leader when the woman in front is likely to be the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA this season.
Fresh off earning her sixth Player of the Week award and third Player of the Month honor, Breanna Stewart will lead the New York Liberty back into action against Los Angeles Thursday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
In search of their season-high eighth straight victory, the Liberty (31-7) are still marveling at Stewart’s latest epic performance, a 40-point, 10-rebound effort in Dallas Tuesday night that moved her ahead of Diana Taurasi on the league’s all-time single-season scoring list.
“I think just seeing her go out there and give her all. She leads by example. She’s just the ultimate leader,” New York forward Betnijah Laney said of Stewart.
The 2018 WNBA MVP as a member of the Seattle Storm is the first player in league history with four 40-point games.
She is also tied for the franchise mark with 20 double-doubles this year, a mark she can eclipse against the Sparks (16-22) here in the penultimate contest of the first-ever 40-game WNBA campaign.
The Liberty would like to cruise past Los Angeles and spend Friday night scoreboard watching as the league-leading Las Vegas Aces (32-6) will visit Phoenix for the opener of a season-ending home-and-home set.
New York is just one game behind Las Vegas for the top overall seed in the upcoming playoffs. The Liberty will host Washington here Sunday and the Aces will finish up at home later that afternoon against the Mercury.
“We’re top-two (in the standings),” Stewart noted after her latest historic performance Tuesday. “Se know that and we just want to keep getting better.”
Though the Liberty are currently safe as the No. 2 seed, the Sparks are still fighting to get into the postseason.
Los Angeles is tied with Chicago for the eighth and final playoff berth and could use a lift after falling for the third time in its last four games Tuesday in Connecticut.
Azura Stevens and Dearica Hamby had 18 points apiece in the 90-76 loss to the Sun, which put the Sparks in ninth position due to the Sky’s hold of the tiebreaker advantage in the head-to-head series this year.
L.A. dropped consecutive home games to the Liberty from July 30-Aug. 1.
Stewart had 25 points and nine boards in the opener of the two-game set as New York led from start to finish for an 87-79 triumph.
In the finale, Courtney Vandersloot put up all but three of her season-high 23 points in the second half as the Liberty used a game-closing 10-2 run to post a 76-69 victory.
The Sparks may be more desperate for a win in Brooklyn Thursday night, but the ever-expanding Barclays Center crowd will likely be in full throat to welcome back the best player in the sport and best team in the league since late July.
Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m., and those who can’t get to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush can tune in on Prime Video.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Mystics will tip-off at 1 p.m. and will be televised on NBA TV. … Vandersloot matched her career best with her 300th assist of the season Tuesday in Dallas, a record she is likely to break early in Thursday’s contest. She holds the league lead with 8.1 assists per game this year and has at least 10 helpers in three of her last four contests. … Liberty coach Sandy Brondello can post her 212th career win Thursday. That would move her past legendary Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor for the seventh-most wins in the history of the WNBA.
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