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Liberty aim to repeat as Cup champions

New York rides best start ever into title game at UBS Arena

June 25, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The New York Liberty are chasing their first-ever WNBA championship this season.

But they also have a title to defend Tuesday night on Long Island.

Looking to repeat as Commissioner’s Cup champions, the league-best Liberty, off to the best start in franchise history, will host the Minnesota Lynx at UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders.

Last Aug. 15, the Liberty (15-3) rolled into Michelob ULTRA Arena and toppled the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, 82-63, to grab their first-ever championship hardware in the Cup Final.

Though New York eventually fell to the Aces in the WNBA Finals in four tough games, it never stopped building for this year as the entire starting five returned, including former and reigning league Most Valuable Players Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart, respectively.

The Liberty fell to the Western Conference-leading Lynx (13-3), 84-67, on May 25 in Minnesota, but have dropped only one their last 12 contests since.

They enter Tuesday’s title tilt on a three-game winning streak, including Sunday’s 96-75 triumph over the Atlanta Dream in front of 3,260 fans at the Gateway Center.

Sabrina Ionescu put up 26 points and 11 rebounds and Stewart added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists for New York, which shot a franchise-best 71 percent in the first half.

“I just just continue to play my game understanding, obviously, the threat that I have with the ball in my hands as a scorer from all three levels,” noted Ionescu, who dished out at least eight helpers for the sixth straight game.

“But understanding that the passing is part of my game that is kind of un-guardable in terms of just continuing to be able to get everyone involved and and let everyone do what they do best,” she added.

Jonquel Jones helped the Liberty improve to 17-0 in games in which she records a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards and rookie Marquesha Davis made an impact off the bench with a career-high nine points.

“It felt great,” said Davis, New York’s first-round pick in this year’s WNBA Draft. “I’ve been trying to stay ready and just– each time I get in, Just embrace the opportunity. And that’s what I did.”

Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx will ride a season-high six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Cup title game. AP Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot, whose mother passed away last week, is back with the team and eligible to play for the first time since June 4.

The future Hall of Famer is listed as questionable for Tuesday as she works up her conditioning following a long hiatus.

“It’s been a tough time for her and her family,” Brondello said of Vandersloot. “She’s back in town, but we’re just ramping her up a little bit. ”

The Lynx will ride a season-high six-game winning streak into UBS, which replaced Barclays Center as the venue for the Cup Final in observance of this week’s NBA Draft.

Napheesa Collier scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds Saturday as Minnesota remained hot with a 73-60 victory over visiting Phoenix.

One of only two players in the league averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, Collier had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting with New York a month ago.

After the passing of her mom last week, Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot is working her way back into playing shape. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

GIVE ME LIBERTY: New York’s Betnijah Laney-Hamilton (knee) is questionable for Tuesday while fellow forward Nyara Sabally (back) remains out. … Liberty power forward Kayla Thornton finished with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go with six caroms in Sunday’s win in Atlanta. With 23 rebounds in her last four games, Thornton has surpassed 20 rebounds in that span for the first time in her tenure with New York. … Ionescu drained four 3-pointers Sunday, extending her franchise-record streak of making at least one shot from beyond the arc to 43 consecutive games, the longest active run in the WNBA. … After Tuesday’s Cup Final, the Liberty will kick off a two-game homestand back in Brooklyn Sunday vs. Atlanta.

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