Brooklyn Boro

Liberty drop finale to first-round opponent

Buzzer-beating loss to Mystics preview of postseason clash

September 12, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty saw their eight-game winning streak and any chance of grabbing the top seed in the upcoming WNBA playoffs go up in smoke with Sunday’s regular season-ending loss to Washington.

They also got a good, hard look at exactly how tough these Mystics might be in the opening round of the postseason.

Brittney Skyes’ buzzer-beating basket off a lob pass from Natasha Cloud lifted Washington to a 90-88 victory over New York in front of 8,306 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center, where the Liberty will host the Mystics in Game 1 Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

“We knew it was going to be tough so this is a great game for us as we prepare for the playoffs,” said New York coach Sandy Brondello after the Mystics earned a 2-2 tie of the season series betwen the squads.

The Liberty (32-8), who hadn’t lost since an 88-75 to top overall seed and defending WNBA champion Las Vegas (34-7) on Aug. 17, had to watch as the Aces thumped Phoenix, 100-86, at Michelob ULTRA Arena on Sunday.

The defeat, which came only after Breanna Stewart’s layup with 21.1 ticks remaining evened the score following a furious 12-point comeback by the Liberty, won’t mean a thing come Friday night.

“I think they get up for us. This is a really good team that had a lot of injuries (this season). So they feel good about themselves too,” added Brondello.

WNBA Commissioner’s Cup champions, the New York Liberty raised their first-ever title banner in Brooklyn Sunday. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

The Liberty also lot their season opener to the Mystics in our nation’s capital on opening night, but bounced back to beat them in overtime here in Brooklyn on June 25 before posting a nine-point win in Washington on July 21.

Sykes finished with 20 points and Cloud added 17 for the Mystics, who were eager to test their mettle against their best-of-3 first-round opponent.

“We started the game and we want to send a message, ‘You’re going to have to see us all series long,’” Cloud said.

Though the loss was painful, Brooklyn fans showed their support as they gear up for what they hope will be a long playoff run into October’s WNBA Finals.

As a newly formed “Super Team”, the Liberty drew the most fans in franchise history to Brooklyn, including a pair of sellout crowds that cleared 11,000 at the box office this year.

“Our fans have been great the entire season. Having them push us and support us is going to be amazing,” noted Jonquel Jones, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds Sunday.

Sabrina Ionescu poured in 20 points and Betnijah Laney, who signed contract extension with the Liberty earlier in the week, added 13 as New York settled for the second-most wins by an franchise in WNBA history this year.

The Liberty did have a banner-raising in Brooklyn as they hoisted their 2023 Commissioner’s Cup championship to the rafters at Barclays. They beat the Aces in Vegas on Aug. 15 for the first-ever title in franchise history.

“It’s always special. This organization from the beginning has had some close opportunities to win some championships in the early days,” Brondello said.

“It’s still a title that’s really special. Hopefully, keeps motivating us to put more up.”

They’ll begin that quest Friday night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Liberty point guard Courtney Vandersloot led the WNBA this season with 8.1 assists per game. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Liberty point guard Courtney Vandersloot led the league in assists for the seventh time in her 13-year career this season. She earned the 2023 WNBA Peak Performer Award with 8.1 helpers per contest. … Game 2 will be in Brooklyn on Sept. 19 with Game 3, if necessary, in Washington on Sept. 22. Game 1 will be televised on ESPN2. … Sharp-shooter Marine Johannes had 11 points off the bench Sunday, drilling 3-of-6 3-pointers.

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