The New York Liberty are playoff-bound for the first time since 2017 thanks to Sunday losses in Washington and Los Angeles.
The New York Liberty’s 25th anniversary celebration isn’t over just yet.
For the first time since 2017, the Liberty (12-20) will partake in the WNBA Playoffs. Placed in the eighth and final slot of the tournament, New York will take on the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury in the opening round’s single-game elimination on Thursday night (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The game will be held at Grand Canyon University Arena as the Mercury’s regular home of Footprint Center is occupied for a concert.
Though the Liberty’s season wrapped on Friday night, Sunday’s results allowed the team to punch its ticket. The wearers of seafoam needed losses from both the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks to extend their season. Fortunately for New York, the Minnesota Lynx and Dallas Wings were happy to provide an assist.
Minnesota topped Washington 83-77 in the nation’s capital (allowing them to move past defending champion Seattle for the No. 3 seed) while Dallas narrowly defeated Los Angeles by an 87-84 margin to finish things off. The Liberty set up the Sunday scenarios with a 91-80 win over Washington on Friday night at Barclays Center, a win that snapped an eight-game losing streak.
New York now returns to the playoffs after enduring a two-win showing in the Bradenton bubble, one that forced the team to rely on the services of seven rookies, including touted top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu. The Oregon alumna partook in only three games before an injury erased most of her freshman campaign. She returned to a revamped Liberty squad that brought in Bradenton’s Most Improved Player and Rutgers Betnijah Laney, as well as WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb through a trade.
This Liberty season, their first as full-time tenants in Barclays Center, began with wins in five of its first six games, the first of which ended in a game-winning buzzer-beater from Ionescu. Though things cooled down in terms of wins and losses, the Liberty made several proud strides throughout the season.
Laney was invited to her first WNBA All-Star Game while Ionescu earned the 10th triple-double in WNBA history in a May victory over Minnesota. Paced by Whitcomb’s 76 (second-best in the league behind Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas), the Liberty also set a new WNBA record with 321 successful three-point attempts. Bec Allen finished third in the league in steals (1.6 per game) while Michaela Onyenwere (8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds per game) is considered a front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.
The Liberty and Mercury, two of the WNBA’s three remaining original franchises that remain situated in their original markets (Los Angeles is the other) have met twice in the WNBA Playoffs. New York took the first matchup to advance to the inaugural WNBA Finals in 1997 while Phoenix upset the Liberty as an eighth seed in 2016. Phoenix won two of the three matchups between the teams this season, the most recent being an 80-64 triumph on August 27 in Brooklyn. Two members of the Liberty’s bubble squad, Kia Nurse and Megan Walker, currently reside on the Mercury roster as they were dealt out west in the Howard/Whitcomb deal that also involved the Seattle Storm.
Full WNBA Playoff Schedule
|September 23||No. 7 Dallas @ No. 6 Chicago||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|September 23||No. 8 LIBERTY @ No. 5 Phoenix||10 p.m.||ESPN2|
|September 26||TBD @ No. 3 Minnesota||TBD||ABC or ESPN2|
|September 26||TBD @ No. 4 Seattle||TBD||ABC or ESPN2|
|September 28||TBD @ No. 1 Connecticut (Game 1)||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|September 28||TBD @ No. 2 Las Vegas (Game 1)||10 p.m.||ESPN2|
|September 30||TBD @ Connecticut (Game 2)||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|September 30||TBD @ Las Vegas (Game 2)||10 p.m.||ESPN2|
|October 3||Connecticut @ TBD (Game 3)||TBD||TBD|
|October 3||Las Vegas @ TBD (Game 3)||TBD||TBD|
|October 6||Connecticut @ TBD (Game 4)*||TBD||TBD|
|October 6||Las Vegas @ TBD (Game 4)*||TBD||TBD|
|October 8||TBD @ Connecticut (Game 5)*||TBD||ESPN2|
|October 8||TBD @ Las Vegas (Game 5)||TBD||ESPN2|
|October 10||WNBA Finals (Game 1)||3 p.m.||ABC|
|October 13||WNBA Finals (Game 2)||9 p.m.||ESPN|
|October 15||WNBA Finals (Game 3)||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
|October 17||WNBA Finals (Game 4)*||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|October 19||WNBA Finals (Game 5)*||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags