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Mercury rise over Liberty in Phoenix

Eight-game winning streak ends in 3-ball shootout

June 19, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty tied the WNBA record and their franchise mark for 3-pointers made in Phoenix Tuesday night.

They also lost for the first time in three weeks.

Despite nailing 18 shots from beyond the arc and combining with the Mercury for a league-record 33 3s, the Liberty had their season-high eight-game winning streak snapped with a wild 99-93 loss at the Footprint Center.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said New York coach Sandy Brondello after her team absorbed its first defeat since an 84-67 setback at Minnesota on May 25.

“Both of our defenses, both coaches would say, was probably not where it needed to be,” she added. “We made a few more, but they shot a better percentage, especially in that fourth quarter.”

The Liberty led 76-69 after three periods, but their 3-ball mastery fizzled down the stretch while Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Rebecca Allen heated up.

Griner and Taurasi made back-to-back baskets before Allen, who spent her first seven seasons in New York, drained a 26-footer to forge a 76-76 tie.

The back-and-forth affair, which featured 10 lead changes and seven ties, broke for good in Phoenix’s favor when Griner made a five-footer to give the Mercury (8-7) a 92-89 lead.

Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi poured it on in the fourth quarter as the Mercury snapped the Liberty’s eight-game winning streak Tuesday. AP Photo by Ian Maule

Reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart pulled the Liberty (11-3) to within one on the ensuing trip, but Taurasi flushed a 25-foot step-back to open a 95-91 advantage with 1:33 to play.

Griner, who finished with 19 points, answered an 11-footer by Betnijah Laney-Hamilton by scoring the game’s final four points to give Phoenix its fourth win in five games and first against the Liberty since Aug. 6, 2022.

“They’re great shooters. Obviously, Becca had the great night,” noted Brondello of Allen’s 5-of-7 performance from long range. “And then Diana really put the dagger in us.”

Taurasi added 19 points and Allen and Kahleah Cooper finished with 17 apiece for the Mercury, who outscored New York, 30-17, over the final 10 minutes.

“We knew it was probably going to be a high-scoring game,” noted Brondello. “In the fourth quarter, they really put more pressure on us. We still missed some open ones. I think we rushed it a bit.

“I believe that was kind of their adjustment coming into the second half. They were kind of building a wall behind the ball,” added Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who scored 19 points, but finished 4-of-14 from 3-point land.

Stewart scored 28 points, splashing all four of her 3-point attempts, Jonquel Jones added 17 points and Kayla Thornton and Hamilton finished with 12 apiece for New York, which will be back at Barclays Center Thursday for the opener of a two-game series against the Los Angeles Sparks.

“So we go home and we lock back in,” said Stewart.

Jonquel Jones drained three of New York’s 18 3-pointers Tuesday, but the Liberty still lost to the Mercury in Phoenix. AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Ionescu’s streak of consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer made reached 40, extending her franchise record. … Jones tied a career best with seven assists in Phoenix. … Laney-Hamilton hit New York’s 18th and final 3-pointer with 4:53 remaining on the clock. The Liberty hit their previous 17 3s over the first three quarters. They missed their final four down the stretch to fall short of a new league record. … Courtney Vandersloot missed her fifth consecutive game for personal reasons.

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