Despite losing Natasha Howard to an injury, the New York Liberty were able to sweep a back-to-back headed into a four-day break.
Forced to play three games in three cities over a four-day span, the New York Liberty learned in the most enjoyable way that two out of three isn’t bad.
Betnijah Laney scored 26 points, while Sabrina Ionescu (15 points, 9 assists) fell just short of a double-double en route to an 88-81 victory on Monday night at Barclays Center. The game was previously scheduled for Tuesday night but moved due to the Brooklyn Nets’ NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics.
ESM has three heroines from Monday’s game…
3rd Star: DiDi Richards
3 points, 5 assists, 2 steals
The energetic Richards, chosen in the second round in last month’s draft, has quickly become a fan favorite in New York. She cemented that status on Monday through the basketball’s de facto equivalent of a hockey fight, diving for a loose ball late in the first half that more or less changed the course of the game. At the time of Richards’ gritty display, the lethargic Liberty trailed 39-31. Over the final 1:54, they went on an 8-0 run to create a tie game and go into the half on a good note.
2nd Star: Betnijah Laney
Death. Taxes. Betnijah Laney scoring 20 points in a Liberty uniform.
The trend came to pass once again on Monday, as Laney once again broke the double-decalogue plateau. She likewise dealt the Brooklyn fans an unintentional scare, as she took an elbow to the mouth in the penultimate minute of the ball game while going for a rebound. Fortunately, she returned to the floor and went on to sink several free throws that played a role in securing the win.
1st Star: Natasha Howard
17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Time will tell if Howard is able to build on her strong debut. The three-time WNBA champion left Monday’s game with a late knee injury sustained while setting a pick, but she made her prescience felt. What’s impressive about her early showings is that she has yet to partake in a single practice with the team, having only joined the team on Sunday, immediately before this back-to-back.
The Liberty (5-1) return to action on Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Dream at Barclays Center (2 p.m. ET, YES App/Amazon Prime).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags