Brooklyn Boro

Liberty’s repeat bid denied by Lynx

New York fails to win second straight Commissioner's Cup

June 26, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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This isn’t really the title the New York Liberty were seeking when they decided to run it back in 2024.

But it sure would have been nice to win back-to-back Commissioner’s Cup championships.

“I think that they executed better than us and that’s it, both ends of the floor,” admitted reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart after scoring a game-high 24 points in the Liberty’s 94-89 loss to the Minnesota Lynx Tuesday in front of 7,015 fans at Long Island’s UBS Arena.

Though New York couldn’t host the game at Downtown’s Barclays Center due to considerations for Wednesday night’s NBA Draft, it did have a healthy crowd of supporters for what many thought would be a re-coronation.

Instead, the Lynx (13-3) raised the Cup in glory, having held off a furious fourth-quarter charge by the Liberty (15-3), who had a three-game winning streak snapped despite this contest not counting in the league standings.

Bridget Carleton poured in 23 points and Napheesa Collier bolstered her MVP campaign with 21 as Minnesota won its seventh straight overall and denied New York the first consecutive crowns in the four-year history of the WNBA’s in-season tournament.

“It’s really good, always want to win championships,” said Collier, who is one of only two players in the league averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“This is a championship we won, but there’s still work to be done,” she added.

The Liberty, who beat Las Vegas for the Cup crown last August, may have to see the Lynx again in the fall as the two conference leaders are emerging as favorites to meet in the WNBA Finals.

But Collier, much like the Liberty felt last year before eventually losing to the Aces in the championship round, aren’t buying into their midseason success just yet.

“A lot of games to be played. We want to build on this,” she noted. “We don’t want to peak here. This is amazing at the end of the day we want to achieve bigger things than this at the end of the season.”

So do the Liberty, who fell behind for good in the third quarter, when they managed just 10 points and entered the fourth down by 10.

Stewart’s personal 9-0 run, capped by a 25-footer with 6:56 remaining, shaved the deficit to 70-69.

However, Courtney Williams answered with a 21-foot pull-up jumper and Carleton converted a three-point play to open a six-point bulge 30 seconds later.

“We weren’t able to get anything we wanted,” lamented Stewart. “Twenty-one turnovers is never going to win the game.”

Sabrina Ionescu had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Kayla Thornton contributed 17 points, burying five of New York’s 12 3-pointers.

Though they couldn’t play at Barclays Center, the Liberty got a lift from the crowd on Long Island during their Commissioner’s Cup championship game loss to the Lynx. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

Liberty power forward Jonquel Jones grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, but saw her offensive game fizzle after averaging 22.0 points over her previous six contests.

Jones misfired on all three of her field-goal attempts, but did finish with three points at the line, all of which came in the final 80 seconds.

“JJ has been playing great, they really took her out of the game, made it hard for her to catch the ball,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello ceded.

New York did get veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot back on the hardwood. The future Hall of Famer had been out since June 4 while tending to her ailing mother, who passed away two weeks ago.

Vandersloot’s teammates appreciated her return, and were inspired by her performance. She had four points, four assists and a steal in 13 minutes off the bench.

“Shows a lot about who she is and how much she cares about being a part of this team,” Ionescu said of her backcourt mate.

“Wanting to sacrifice to suit up and be available to us. Credit to her, it’s so tough to do what she’s doing.”

Though they weren’t able to raise the Cup for a second straight year, the Liberty did serve a worthy cause.

They raised $15,000 for Women Creating Change, “a program that disrupts barriers to civic engagement for underserved women and creates opportunities for learning and civic participation,” according to the organization’s website.

New York, which does still hold a two-game lead over Minnesota and Connecticut for the league’s best record, will be back in action at Barclays Center on Sunday to host Atlanta.

Tip-off for that contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

The Liberty were inspired Tuesday by the return of veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: New York forward Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, who had missed the previous three games with a sore right knee, returned for the Cup Final and put up 13 points while handing out six assists. … Reserve center Nyara Sabally remained sidelined with a bad back. … After hosting the Dream Sunday in Brooklyn, the Liberty will welcome the Lynx to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

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