Brooklyn Boro

Liberty shoot for fifth straight in Atlanta

Streaking Commissioner's Cup champions visit Dream

June 6, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty are off to a scintillating start in their pursuit of a second straight Commissioner’s Cup championship.

Though they admittedly have higher aspirations in 2024.

Right now, however, New York’s immediate goal is to post a season-high fifth consecutive win when it visits the Atlanta Dream Thursday night at the Gateway Center.

“The win (is) the most important thing. We have to get to Atlanta and get another one,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello insisted following Tuesday night’s 88-75 triumph in Chicago in the opener of this three-game road trip.

New York (8-2) has already matched the best 10-game start in franchise history, equaling the mark it estabished during the WNBA’s inaugural 1997 campaign.

By winning their first two games of June’s five-game Commissioner’s Cup schedule, the Liberty stand alone atop the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 mark and a league-leading plus-49 point differential in those contests.

“We’re not too high, too low. We just trust each other,” revealed reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart when assessing her team’s hot start.

Though they have an epic showdown looming against league-leading and still-unbeaten Connecticut (9-0) Saturday, the Liberty have thrived on worrying about the opponent in front of them game after game.

On Tuesday, they trailed the Sky by one point entering the final period of a rugged game that featured 39 personal fouls, and the eventual ejection of Chicago rookie sensation Angel Reese.

Rather than bow to the pressure of three grueling quarters on the road, New York instead burst out of the fourth-quarter gate with a 15-2 run that settled matters.

Stewart posted season highs of 33 points and 14 rebounds and fellow All-Star Sabrina Ionescu added 24 points and seven boards as the Liberty outscored the Sky, 23-9, in the final period.

“Our zone really helped us (in the fourth quarter),” Brondello said. “We contained (the posts) well when we changed the defense. And when we can score, we can help the defense get set.”

The dynamic duo of Stewart and Ionescu combined for 12 points during the last 10 minutes.

“I’ve always prided myself on able to get in there and rebound,” noted Ionescu. “We were playing against a really good rebounding team, and so I knew my opportunity was going to be to go in there and help us out.”

She did much more than just hit the glass.

Ionescu drilled four of New York’s 10 3-pointers, giving her at least one made shot from beyond the arc in a franchise record-tying 35 consecutive games.

With one made 3-pointer Thursday in Atlanta, Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu will have drained at least one shot from beyond the arc in a franchise-record 36 straight games. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

Power forward Jonquel Jones was held to only five points Tuesday, but she did rack up 12 rebounds and handed out four assists for the second straight contest despite foul trouble throughout the evening.

The Dream (4-3) are coming off a 69-50 home loss to the Sun, who outscored Atlanta 22-10 in the second quarter to pull away for good.

Tina Charles amassed 12 points and 13 boards for the Dream, who shot a season-worst 28 percent from the floor, including a dismal 3-of-16 effort from 3-point range.

“I feel like we’re a much better team than what we showed,” said Atlanta coach Tanisha Wright.

“I think we let our offense dictate our defense at times and I thought it killed our confidence. … We missed some easy shots. We were getting great looks.”

The Liberty took three of four meetings from Atlanta last year, including a 95-84 win at Downtown’s Barclays Center in the final encounter on July 27.

Stewart led the way for New York that night with 33 points and 12 rebounds. She also tied the franchise record with 16 free-throw attempts.

Tip-off for Thursday’s initial encounter of this year between New York and Atlanta is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Liberty reserve forward Nyara Sabally will miss her third game in a row Thursday with a back injury. AP Photo by Michael Conroy

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Shameka Christon is the only other player in franchise history to hit at least one 3-pointer in 35 consecutive games. … Reserve forward Nyara Sabally will miss her third straight game Thursday with a back injury. … After closing out this trip in Connecticut on Saturday, the Liberty will have a quick ride back to Brooklyn for Sunday’s game against winless Washington (0-9).

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