New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s win over Cincinnati

New York Jets

Mike White and Michael Carter guided the New York Jets to a jaw-dropping victory over the AFC-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Behind 405 passing yards from Mike White and 172 scrimmage yards from rookie rusher Michael Carter, the New York Jets earned a 34-31 win over the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals. White, making his first start in place of the injured Zach Wilson, earned the 11th 400-yard game in Jets history and first since Vinny Testaverde reached the mark on Christmas Eve in 2000.

With a huge win under their belts, the Jets (2-5) return to action on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network).

ESM bestows three game balls from the jaw-dropping triumph..

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Ty Johnson: 86 total yards, 1 receiving TD
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 8 rec., 84 yards
  • WR Elijah Moore: 6 rec., 67 yards
  • WR/Ret. Braxton Berrios: 1 receiving TD, 29.5 kick ret. average
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 10 tackles (1 TFL)
  • DL Sheldon Rankins: 4 tackles (2 TFL), 1 sack
  • DL Quinnen Williams: 1 sack

3rd Star: LB Shaq Lawson

1 interception

A victory over the AFC leaders was child’s play for the Jets’ linebacker.

Lawson was in the holiday spirit when he arrived in East Rutherford on Sunday, as he was dressed like the horror film icon Chucky. He went on to become a nightmare for the Bengals, picking up the Jets’ first interception of the season at the perfect time. That crucial turnover situated Gang Green 14 yards away from the end zone as they went on to punch in the winning score via White’s touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft.

Mosley described Lawson’s takeaways as a “Hall of Fame defensive end type of play”.

“I think about Terrell Suggs doing that all the time, tipping the ball and getting it to himself,” Mosley said, per notes from the Jets. “What a great time to have that happen.”

“I didn’t even think I was going to get it,” Lawson himself added. “I’ve been fortunate these last couple of years. I scored last year, and a pick this year. That ain’t never happened like that. You always run to the ball, and being around the ball good things happen. that’s what we preach every day.”

2nd Star: RB Michael Carter

172 total yards, 1 rushing TD

Carter’s hold on the Jets’ primary rushing duties has grown over the past few weeks (though Johnson remained a factor through some big aerial gains). He had reached triple digits in yards from scrimmage before (doing so in last week’s disastrous visit to New England) but he made a major impact on the Wilson-free settings. Carter’s final tally is the fourth-best output from a Jets rookie running back. He’s also the first such rusher to reach that mark in consecutive weeks since Freeman McNeil in 1981.

“He’s a rookie, but he’s taken it as a vet,” Johnson said of Carter’s efforts. “I told him today, I was like, ‘Man, he was playing a lot. And I was like, ‘Hey man, I appreciate you. You took every single rep you had and you were on your P’s and Q’s, you were on your alignments, your assignments, and your execution.’ So, I was like, ‘Get your body right, let’s do it again on Thursday.’”

“He’s a rookie, but he’s proven that he’s built for this and he’s a vet in a rookie body.”

1st Star: QB Mike White

37-of-45, 405 yards, 3 TD

White’s first career NFL start became a national headline, one that was historic on both a team and national level. His final yardage total, already a rarity by Jets standards (joining Testaverde, Joe Namath, Ken O’Brien, Richard Todd, and Glenn Foley as the green quarterbacks to do so), is the second-best tally for a quarterback in his first start over the past six decades, passed only by Cam Newton’s 422 from his 2011 debut. The quarterback also tallied two of the game’s most important points by himself, literally taking matters into his own hands on a Halloween trick that saw Crowder loft a two-point conversion toss to him, creating the final 34-31 margin.

White was an obvious recipient of the Jets’ offical game ball bestowed by Saleh in the postgame celebration. The head coach confirmed that White earned the right to start Thursday’s game in Indianapolis.

Looking back on White’s Sunday showing, Saleh believed that his quarterback had something special brewing from his first possession. White completed 7-of-7 passes on the drives (part of a 10-of-10 showing to start the game) and the trek ended with the team’s first opening quarter points of the year via a six-yard scoring rush for Carter. That was enough for Saleh to put the game in White’s hands.

“Mike White was poised and took what the defense gave him, but also took shots when he had to,” Saleh said. “He came out comfortable and poised. He drove the ball right down the field and scored that touchdown. I was like, ‘Alright, let’s get this dude the ball and see what happens.’ I know we had some mishaps in the first half where we could have been even more explosive as it pertains to points, but to be down three at halftime despite three turnovers, to show the grit and grind that this group was fighting through. To be down 11 and come back, it’s a gritty group. It was awesome to see.”

White’s instant legend grew so large that fans began chanting his name in support.

“It was a lot of fun. Anytime you get to play football it’s fun,” White said of his first East Rutherford experience. “That’s what we all grew up doing and that’s what we all came to this level to do, so I embrace it, but I think I personally did a good job of not making it more than it is. What helped a lot too, was the coaches’ faith in me and the team’s faith in me. There wasn’t a flinch and guys were supportive, guys were rallying around me and it made it that much easier.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

WATCH: New York Jets QB Zach Wilson throws his first NFL touchdown

zach wilson, jets

The final segments of an 8-play, 70-yard drive saw Zach Wilson and Corey Davis unite for New York Jets history.

One down, hopefully many, many, many more to go, New York Jets fans hope.

Zach Wilson found Corey Davis for his first career NFL touchdown during the late stages of the third quarter in the Jets’ Week 1 contest against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. A Wilson rollout afforded a 23-yard lob to a wide-open Corey Davis, who earned six points as a member of the Jets for the first time. Wilson wound up adding all eight points on the Jets’ possession: a quarterback draw capped off the drive, slicing Carolina’s 16-point lead in half.

The drive at the end of the third quarter allowed Wilson and the Jets to create some offensive traction: after struggling in the first quarter, he converted all four of his attempts on the drive, totaling 57 of the Jets’ 70 yards en route to his first New York score.

Alas, the play, true to Jets fashion, was not without heartbreak. Mekhi Becton was injured on the play and required assistance to leave the field. Becton, who was later transported to the Jets locker room on a medical cart, was labeled doubtful to return.

The Jets continue to trail the Panthers 16-8 in the middle stages of the fourth quarter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 stars from Saturday’s preseason win at Green Bay

new york jets

Offense took center stage on Saturday, as Zach Wilson found Tyler Kroft for two scores in a New York Jets victory.

Zach Wilson earned his first two unofficial touchdown passes as a New York Jet on Saturday, each going to Tyler Kroft, while Corey Davis established a connection with the young quarterback through a 70-yard showing on four catches. The Jets’ rookie quarterback completed 9-of-11 passes overall for 128 yards, playing four drives in a 23-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Despite a tough showing from the defense in their first post-Carl Lawson injury showing…the ultimate insult being a 19-play, 81-yard scoring drive from the Packers’ offensive reserves…the Jets are likely enthused over their Saturday showings on offensive and special teams. Matt Ammendola converted three field goals, while Corey Ballentine set up the latter touchdown drive with a 73-yard kickoff return. Young men in the secondary managed to provide late defensive redemption, as Brandin Echols and Lamar Jackson each stole a pass from Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala respectively.

ESM bestows three game balls from the summer triumph…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Michael Carter: 10 carries, 52 yards
  • S J.T. Hassell: 5 tackles, 1 sack
  • CB Brandin Echols: 3 tackles, 1 interception
  • KR Corey Ballentine: 1 return, 73 yards
  • K Matt Ammendola: 3-for-3 field goals

3rd Star: WR Corey Davis

4 receptions, 70 yards

After he was granted one series in the Snoopy Bowl last weekend, Davis was granted some extended time to work with Wilson in Green Bay. The two further strengthened their connection to the tune of a game-high 70 yards, including two big ones at the end of the first quarter that set up the Jets’ first touchdown.

“We’re definitely getting (chemistry),” Davis said of his connection with Wilson, per Jack Bell of “We’ve made a lot of huge strides the last week and a half, two weeks. I think Zach is a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s been more accurate. I’ve been getting open and creating space to try and make it easier for him.”

2nd Star: TE Tyler Kroft

2 receptions, 36 yards, 2 touchdowns

It’s been a while since the Jets have had a consistent red zone threat at tight end, perhaps dating back to the days of Mickey Shuler (although there have been brief flashes of brilliance, like Dustin Keller and Anthony Becht). Kroft could turn out to be a valuable diamond in the rough signing if he keeps this up and appears well on-pace to usurp the starting tight end role from Chris Herndon.

1st Star: QB Zach Wilson

9-of-11, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns

Wilson’s success undoubtedly comes with the caveats that he’s doing this against reserve defenses in the preseason, but it’s hard not to feel excited about what he’s been able to accomplish this summer (especially when his shortcomings in camp practices and scrimmages made national headlines).

The most inspiring portion of Wilson’s Saturday showing was perhaps his ability to respond to adversity and pressure. With the Jets’ defense going through a tough outing and his pockets collapsing, Wilson held his own and didn’t fall victim to any sacks. His first touchdown pass to Kroft came shortly after a Jets penalty bestowed the offense a dozen-yard second down. Such command of the offense impressed Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

“I thought Zach had good command, he was under control, he handled the pressure well, he was good in and out of the huddle,” Saleh said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “He’s been going through his progressions and he’s been pretty good at that.”

The Jets will round out their preseason slate against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win vs. Indianapolis

The Buffalo Bills made the most of their first playoff opportunity at home in nearly 25 years, ending yet another dubious streak of futility.

The Buffalo Bills have ended countless streaks of futility during this downright magical season. This one, however, might be the sweetest one yet.

Buffalo (14-3) withstood a furious Indianapolis Colts rally in the final minutes, using Josh Allen’s offensive output of 378 total yards to earn a 27-24 victory in the opening Wild Card round of the 2020-21 NFL playoffs. The victory, their first in the postseason since December 1995, comes in the first playoff game they’ve hosted at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park in nearly a quarter-century.

Bills Stadium will now host its first Divisional playoff game since January 1994. They will battle the highest seed remaining between the winners of the remaining wild card matchups. No. 4 Tennessee battles No. 5 Baltimore in Sunday’s early window (1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC) while the battle between No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 6 Cleveland caps off Wild Card weekend at night (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).

In the meantime, ESM has three game balls to give out from Saturday’s victory…

3rd Star: WR Gabriel Davis

4 receptions, 85 yards

Brandon Beane’s lasting impact on the Western New York area will likely always be choosing Josh Allen in the early stages of the 2018 draft. But his day three gems also played a major role in his recent extension. Day three choices were on prominent display during the first playoff win of the Beane era. Taron Johnson, a fourth-round in 2018, made a major tackle on a third-and-goal that forced Indianapolis into a bad fourth-down call, keeping the deficit at 10-7. On the drive that gave Buffalo the lead for good, Johnson’s 2020 draft counterpart from the fourth round, Davis, channeled his inner Fred Flintstone with several tiptoe sideline grabs that allowed the Bills to take the lead just before the halftime break.

2nd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

6 receptions, 128 yards, 1 TD

The Bills’ recent success hasn’t made them immune to the fact that their roster, talented as it may be, is relatively low on playoff experience. Diggs, a bonafide postseason hero…nay, miracle worker…brought in a good chunk of it, putting a target on his Buffalo back right from the get-go. He responded by not only topping the league’s receivers in yardage and catches, but setting Bills records every step of the way. Granted his first playoff opportunity in his new settings, Diggs took full advantage in his cleats inspired by the 2003 Buffalo-based comedy Bruce Almighty. Diggs lived up to Jim Carrey’s fictitious surname in the second half, putting up 92 yards and a score that came at the onset of the fourth quarter.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

26-of-35, 324 yards, 11 carries, 54 yards, 3 total TD

If anything proved that Western New York’s future belongs to Allen…as if anyone needed further convincing…Saturday’s game was perfect concrete evidence. When the Bills needed a score, needed to try and run out the clock…they turned things over to Allen. For some reason, the Bills’ playcalling took the ball out of Allen’s hands during the middle stages of the first half. The rush-heavy diet yielded only three-and-outs and a Colts lead. Once Allen got free reign after the Colts left three points on the field, Allen took over to the tune of a 96-yard drive, capping things off by himself. It was only appropriate that Allen be responsible for the first playoff touchdown scores tallied in Orchard Park since the mid-1990s, as he found Diggs and Dawson Knox through the air, sandwiching the one he took in himself just before the half.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

VIDEO: Josh Allen, Dawson Knox end Buffalo Bills’ playoff TD drought

For the first time since December 1996, someone from the Buffalo Bills visited Orchard Park’s end zones during a playoff game.

It wasn’t pretty by conventional means. But when you’ve gone just over 24 years without experiencing the glory of a playoff touchdown, you’ll take them however you can get.

Josh Allen and Dawson Knox collaborated to end yet another dubious streak of futility in Buffalo Bills history, as the quarterback found his third-year tight end for a three-yard score that gave the Bills a 7-3 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card matchup at Bills Stadium. It was the first playoff touchdown scored in Orchard Park since Jacksonville’s Jimmy Smith scored on a two-yard pass from Mark Brunell during the Wild Card round in December 1996. As for Bills representation, it’s the first postseason score at home by the home team since Jeff Burris took back a Brunell interception 38 yards and the first offensive tally since Thurman Thomas scored in the same game, a 30-27 Jacksonville victory.

After the Bills went three-and-out on their first drive by keeping Allen in the pocket, the MVP candidate was able to break free on his second attempt with the ball. Situated at his own 15 after the Colts took a 3-0 lead, Allen accounted for all but six yards on the ensuing 85-yard trek to the end zone. He got things started with his legs on a 12-yard tally on the second play before getting into Indianapolis territory with a 36-yard strike to Stefon Diggs. The score itself wasn’t pretty…Allen appeared to attempt to run it in himself before he got it off at the last minute with the pocket collapsing…but Knox was wide for a catch worth six points not matter its attractiveness. Tyler Bass would later boot the extra point to make to create a 7-3 Buffalo lead.

Allen also earned first downs through passes to Devin Singletary and Gabriel Davis. Each of Allen’s first six completion went to a different receiver, with Zack Moss and Cole Beasley also earning catches in the opening frame.

Buffalo continues to lead Indianapolis 7-3 in the early stages of the second quarter.

Geof Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Sam Darnold leaves New York Jets’ Thursday night game

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold left Thursday’s New York Jets game after taking a tough hit in the late stages of the first quarter. He later returned.

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold left Thursday’s game against the Denver Broncos with an apparent shoulder injury.

After accumulating all but two yards on the Jets’ opening 75-yard trek to the end zone (including the final 46 on the ground in a jaw-dropping touchdown run), Darnold got the Jets to midfield on their second drive. However, on a second down, Darnold was the victim of a Shelby Harris sack that saw the defender slam the quarterback down on his throwing shoulder.

Darnold stayed in for the next play, a handoff to Frank Gore, but immediately walked to the sidelines. Since the medical tent was already occupied, Darnold was immediately escorted to the Jets’ locker room by team trainers and doctors as the first quarter ended. Joe Flacco, active for the first time on Thursday, came into the game to finish the drive, which ended in a Braden Mann punt.

After Denver took a 10-7 lead on a Jerry Jeudy touchdown catch, Flacco began the Jets’ next drive, but Darnold came in on the Jets’ final play. He was immediately sacked, but came out for the next set of downs after the defense forced a punt.

This story will be updated pending further developments.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

VIDEO: Sam Darnold’s electrifying TD run gives New York Jets first lead of 2020

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

The New York Jets quarterback unleashed the longest run from a thrower this season, his 46-yard rush giving Gang Green an early lead.

Vick. Jackson. Darnold?

Sam Darnold gave the New York Jets an early lead over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night through a showstopping 46-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Jets an early lead, New York’s first of the season, in their primetime tilt.

Darnold wound up accounting for all but two yards on the Jets’ opening scoring drive, one that took nine plays to go 75 yards after the opening kickoff. His legs were responsible for two previous conversions on third down. A three-yard punch in the opening minute kept the drive going, as did an eight-yard scramble on third-and-four just prior to midfield. Darnold’s previous career-best in rushing was a 35-yard output in December 2018 against Houston. The long touchdown is the longest run by any quarterback so far this season.

The Jets continue to lead Denver 7-3 in the latter stages of the first quarter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick closes playoffs’ first round with another win

Kevin Harvick

In front of 30,000 fans at Bristol, Kevin Harvick ended the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs on a victorious note.

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race featured a dozen winners, as these select names moved on to the second round of the circuit’s postseason. Alas, only one familiar face will have his name etched onto the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick held of Kyle Busch to win his ninth race of the 2020 season. His win came in front of 30,000 socially distanced fans, the best-attended regular season race since the circuit returned from the COVID-19 induced pause.

Saturday was the final portion of the three-race opening round to the 2020 playoffs consisting of 16 drivers. Harvick had already clinched his spot in the upcoming second-round with a win in the first leg at Darlington Raceway two weekends ago. The bottom four drivers were eliminated from championship contention. Harvick is a healthy 62 points ahead of the cutoff to the next round of eight men.

I hadn’t been to too many races where I’ve been that jacked up getting in the race car,” Harvick said about seeing fans in the stands. “The fans were so enthusiastic tonight and I don’t know if we’ve just been away from them for that long, but you could feel the enthusiasm in the stadium tonight. I think as I was getting in the car, I was just wound up and just really, really ready to race, and then after the race, just the excitement that you could hear and the cheering from the crowd just made me excited.”

“I haven’t felt that in a while, and when you look at Bristol, it’s always very enthusiastic, but tonight these people were so wound up. I think we’re all tired of sitting at home and not really knowing what to do. But tonight they all let it loose, and that gave me a lot of excitement, as well.”

Harvick and Busch united to lead 385 of 500 laps on Saturday, with the former’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford pacing 226 of that tally. The two battled for the lead over the final 82 laps, all but 10 led by Harvick. He eventually held off Busch by a 0.31-second margin to take home another win.

By earning the 58th win of his Cup Series career, Harvick slightly distanced himself from Busch (56 Cup wins) for seventh-place on the all-time wins list.

“I’m just fortunate to be able to still be doing this for 20 years now and be successful, and we got to nine, so that’s one step closer than we were at eight,” Harvick said of the potential of a ten-win campaign. “I don’t know if we’ll make it to ten, but we’re going to keep trying to do the best we can every week, and it’s just been an unbelievable year.”

The win was a team effort all around for the No. 4 unit. Harvick praised spotter Tim Fedewa for helping him navigate through lapped traffic and crew chief Rodney Childers for setting the car up right. He also credited them both for helping avoid a potentially disastrous situation, when Austin Dillon and James Davison wrecked in front of him with 93 laps to go as Harvick was attempting to make his final stop of the night.

“Timmy was on it tonight,” Harvick said of Fedewa. “He was one step ahead of me, and that really helps because you can’t really see all the way out of the corner when you’re entering the corner and headed to the center of the corner, you can’t really tell.”

“The biggest turning point of the night was when we were coming to pit road, cars beside me spun out and we stayed on the racetrack and without clipping the box or anything and put a bunch of them a lap down, so that was definitely a big moment.”

Second place and clinching a second-round spot was no consolation to Busch. The defending Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has yet to win a race at the Cup Series level. Saturday saw him work through several issues en route to the runner-up spot.

A failed prerace inspection forced him to start from the rear of the field. When the caution came out on lap 29 to account for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s accident, a pit road run-in with Daniel Suarez forced him to restart 25th. Busch was able to make it back to second place behind Chase Elliott at the end of the first 125-lap stage. After winning the ensuing race off pit road, Busch led all but two of the next 150 circuits.

Busch briefly took the lead from Harvick, but the No. 4 used its speed and maneuverability around lapped traffic to secure the win. The defending champion was highly displeased with the slower vehicles afterward, namely the underfunded cars of Joey Gase and Garrett Smithley, as well as former fellow champion Joey Logano. The stall only added to his frustration over his fourth runner-up placement of the season.

“You always try to race hard and race clean and get the job done right,” Busch remarked when asked if he considered pulling the Bristol tradition of bumping Harvick out of the lead. “Some of them (expletive) kids don’t know what the hell they’re doing or where they’re at and can’t stay out of the way. Nothing like a Gase and a Smithley.”

Busch’s teammate and non-playoff driver Erik Jones finished third and rookie Tyler Reddick came home fourth. Aric Almirola secured his playoff spot by round out the top five. A Harvick teammate, Clint Bowyer, was the final of only six lead lap cars, securing a second-round spot of his own in the process.

The next three-race stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs gets underway in primetime next Sunday night with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Other locales in the next round include Talladega Superspeedway and the “roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Race Notes

  • William Byron and his team saw their championship dream ended when the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet’s front end was damaged after reported contact with Christopher Bell on lap 233. The get-together was reportedly brought on in an attempt to avoid Gase’s slow car. Byron referred to Gase as “an idiot” over the radio upon his race retirement. The No. 24 had been running in the top ten prior to the wreck and was three points out of the next round entering the race.


  • Other drivers that entered Saturday secure in the next round included Brad Keselowski (win at Richmond last week) and Denny Hamlin (points).


  • In addition to Busch, Logano, Dillon, Elliott, Almirola, and Bowyer, three more drivers clinched their second-round spot via points. That group included Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, and Kurt Busch.


  • Three more drivers were eliminated, including Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, and rookie Cole Custer.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty fall despite WNBA history from Amanda Zahui B

Another bad quarter sank the New York Liberty on Saturday afternoon despite Amanda Zahui B making WNBA history.

WNBA history wasn’t enough to withstand another tough fourth quarter for the New York Liberty.

Amanda Zahui B had a WNBA record 21 defensive rebounds but a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter doomed them to an 80-63 loss to the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday afternoon in the Bradenton bubble. A’ja Wilson led the way with 20 points for Las Vegas while Dearica Hamby had a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) off the bench. Each team returned to action after the WNBA joined the wave of athlete strikes across North America in protest of racial injustice.

The fourth quarter marred what was otherwise a strong, respectable day for the Liberty (2-13), who had won the third quarter by a 21-17 margin. Zahui B’s 21 rebounds made up for a tough shooting day from the field (2-of-11) and broke a Liberty record previously held by Tina Charles since July 2017. Her league record shattered a mark set by Detroit’s Cindy Brown during the 1998 season…the Association’s second year of existence.

“I think she’s at a point where she’s comfortable understanding where if her shots aren’t falling she can do other things for this team,” head coach Walt Hopkins said of Zahui B’s performance. “I thought her one-on-one defense was pretty darn good. Her rebounds were huge, obviously.”

Zahui B declined to comment on basketball matters, expressing only sadness at continued instances of racial injustice. She has been a vocal leader in activism in both American and her native Sweden.

Personal history was also set on the Liberty through Paris Kea. The mid-season acquisition scored a career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting (including 4-of-6 from three-point range). Elsewhere, Kiah Stokes fell just short of a triple-double (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Layshia Clarendon scored 11 more in defeat. Clarendon has been a vocal voice in the WNBA’s social justice initiatives and recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” during a candlelit vigil held during the postponements caused by the strike.

With their win, Las Vegas (12-3) moves into a first-place tie with Seattle. The Aces also clinched their second consecutive playoff spot, becoming the first team officially enter the postseason bracket as the WNBA regular season enters its latter stages.

The Liberty return to action on Tuesday as they play their second game of the season against the Connecticut Sun (7 p.m., Fox Sports Go/CBSSN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Brutal second half leads to one-sided loss

The Minnesota Lynx dealt a sweep to former assistant coach Walt Hopkins’ New York Liberty through a one-sided second half.

It was deja vu all over again in the worst way for the New York Liberty on Saturday night in the Bradenton bubble. A rematch with the Minnesota Lynx yielded more brutality in the second half, as the Liberty were outscored 52-31 over the final 20 minutes in a 94-64 loss. Minnesota was the former dwelling of Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins.

New York (1-9) was previously outscored 27-6 in the third quarter of a 92-66 loss to the Lynx on August 5. This time around, reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier led the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds, while current contender Crystal Dangerfield earned 22 on 9-of-12 shooting. Five Minnesotans in total earned double-figures.

The Liberty got off to a decent start in the first quarter. Leaonna Odom earning eight points in the first quarter, and New York built a small 10-9 lead by the midway mark. Minnesota, however, embarked on a 16-10 run to end the frame and had relative control from that point on. A manageable nine-point deficit at halftime quickly flew out of hand when the Lynx (7-3) sank six of their first seven field goals to open the latter half. Minnesota shot just over 50 percent on the evening (36-of-71) and converted 6-of-13 three-point attempts. In contrast, the Liberty shot only 30 percent (20-of-66) from the field.

The New York silver linings came in the form of rookie Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook. Formerly teammates at Louisville, Jones was the only New Yorker in double figures with 13 points while Shook tied her infantile career-best in scoring with nine. Jones reached double-figures for the third straight game through physical play that went on until the final second had ticked off the clock. The final pick of the first round is averaging 16 points over the trio, which began with a career-high 24 points against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“Toward the end of the game, we knew we needed to play hard, finish the game, continue to fight,” Jones said. “We just got to get better together in practice, translate it over to the game. Youth has nothing to do with it. We just need to come out, execute, do the things we need to do to win.”

The Liberty will hit the midway point of their bubble exploits on Tuesday night when they take on the Seattle Storm (10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go). It will be the second of two meetings with the Storm, who opened the bubble project with the Liberty on July 25. Seattle took home an 87-71 decision. Layshia Clarendon had 20 points in the game to lead the Liberty while Sabrina Ionescu had 12 points and six rebounds in her debut. Seattle currently tops the WNBA standings with a 9-1 record.

“We need to be tougher. We need to start our games with some heart,” Hopkins said of the upcoming second half. “I say that would be a really good start for us. I think we lost four quarters tonight.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags