New York Liberty: 2021 WNBA Draft Lottery staged for Friday

The New York Liberty will have the top odds in the 2021 WNBA Draft Lottery, which will be held on Friday night.

‘Twas three weeks before Christmas, but the New York Liberty could gain a special early gift later this week.

The WNBA has announced that the 2021 Draft Lottery will be staged on Friday night during halftime of the anticipated college basketball matchup between No. 20 DePaul and No. 5 Louisville. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, which will carry lottery proceedings for the ninth consecutive season. LaChina Robinson will host the reveal, which will be overseen by WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin.

New York will have the best odds entering Friday’s drawing, which takes into account cumulative records over the past two seasons for the four non-playoff teams. Weighed down in a rebuilding effort, the Liberty went 12-44 over the past two showings, including a 2-20 mark in the WNBA’s abbreviated bubble season in Bradenton, Florida.

This gives them a 44.2 percent chance of securing the top overall pick for the second straight season. Last time around, the Liberty leaped from the second-best odds to essentially “win” the Draft Lottery for the first time in team history. New York used that selection to take college basketball sensation Sabrina Ionescu out of Oregon in the most recent selections last April. Ionescu partook in three games in the Bradenton bubble before an ankle injury prematurely ended her debut season.

Behind the Liberty, the Atlanta Dream (15-41) have the second-best odds at 27.6 percent, followed by the Dallas Wings (18-38, 17.8) and Indiana Fever (19-37, 10.4). The remaining picks in the first round, consisting of 2020 playoff teams, have already been sorted through the inversion of regular season records, which will likewise determine the full order for the second and third rounds as well.

Staging the Draft Lottery during a Louisville basketball holds a sense of irony for the Liberty. Three former Cardinals currently reside on the Liberty roster, including 2019’s second overall pick Asia Durr. While Durr opted out of the bubble endeavor, the team was nonetheless represented through Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook, who were respectively taken with 12th and 13th picks during last spring’s draft. Jones was later named to the WNBA’s All-Rookie team, becoming the first New Yorker to do so since Brittany Boyd and current teammate Kiah Stokes earned the honor in 2015. Modern Louisville senior Dana Evans (18.0 points, 4.2 assists per game in 2019-20) is expected to be a first-round choice next spring.

Other big name prospects at the top of the 2021 draft board will include Rennia Davis (Tennessee), Destiny Slocum (Oregon State), and Didi Richards (Baylor). Texas junior Charli Collier has been pegged as a potential early entrant.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Happy Birthday Jazmine Jones; Four fun facts about the New York Liberty rookie

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

Having turned 24 on Thursday, the New York Liberty rookie recently wrapped up a strong freshman campaign in the Bradenton bubble.

If the 2020 season was any indication, the New York Liberty might’ve found lasting franchise contributors at both the top and bottom of the first round of the most recent WNBA Draft.

Eleven picks after the highly publicized selection of Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu with the top overall pick, the Liberty closed things out by acquiring Jazmine Jones with the 12th and final choice of the opening proceedings. That pick was obtained in the historic trade that sent franchise face Tina Charles to Washington in a multi-team deal.

A rebuilding campaign for the Liberty inside the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble was pacified by the performance of Jones. The newly-minted 24-year-old, who celebrated her birthday on Thursday, wound up becoming one of the Liberty’s most consistent silver linings, appearing toward the top of almost every major rookie stat, including the freshman league-lead in steals (1.4 per game). Her efforts led to a nomination for the WNBA’s official All-Rookie team, the first New York representative since Brittany Boyd and teammate Kiah Stokes made it in 2015.

“Jazmine works extremely hard. She really wants this,” veteran forward Amanda Zahui B has said of Jones. “She really wants to be great. She goes hard at practice and she’s very vocal. She’s a great leader.”

“The main thing about Jaz is her energy,” head coach Walt Hopkins added. “When she brings her energy, no matter what, she brings us a lot. It’s defensive, it’s toughness, swagger. Jaz has been huge for us.”

In honor of Jones’ special day, ESM has four facts about the former Louisville Cardinal…

She’s a Criminal Justice Major

Jones’ off-the-court accolades as a Cardinal were just as illustrious as the ones she earned on the hardwood. In addition to countless courted conference honors, Jones was named to the ACC’s All-Academic team twice, including her senior campaign. She majored in criminal justice, and, upon choosing Louisville over Floridian rivals Florida State (the Tallahassee native was offered a Seminoles scholarship in eighth grade) and Miami, revealed to the Courier Journal’s Jonathan Lintner that she wanted to take up a different kind of defense through a job in the FBI. 

2020 Was a Throwback to Her High School Days

Jones was the first player with the “SG” initials (shooting guard) attached to her name chosen in April’s draft. However, the early injury to the touted point guard Ionescu forced her into territory unchartered since her high school days at Florida A&M’s Developmental Research School.

When Ionescu was lost for what was eventually the year in just her third WNBA game, Jones was called upon to take her spot. She responded with six consecutive games in reach double-figures and some tenacious defense that got the attention of her veteran WNBA peers.

“She really wants to be great,” Zahui B said. “She goes hard in practice and she’s very vocal. She is a great leader, so for her stepping up and playing the one, which is not really her position.”

Jones wound up averaging 10.8 points per game, one of only four full-season rookies to do so.

No One Has Played More Games as Louisville Cardinal

Louisville has produced some strong players from its women’s basketball program. The Liberty have recently taken to painting their new Brooklyn borough maroon, as Jones is one of three former Cardinals chosen over the past two drafts. Asia Durr, the second overall pick from 2019, missed the bubble endeavor after testing positive for COVID-19, but Jones was joined by Kylee Shook, who chosen immediately after her as the first pick of the second round.

Jones joined an illustrious list of Cardinals chosen in the first round, joining Durr, Angel McCoughtry, and Shoni Schimmel. The ongoing health crisis cut things short, but Jones also became the program’s all-time leader in games played, passing Schimmel and Myisha Hines-Allen.

It’s Hard to Keep Up With the Joneses

It feels like Jones was destined to make some sort of difference in the athletic world from the very start, as sports runs through her blood. Her father Reginald is a former Florida A&M Rattler, while one of her sisters, Gigi Thomas, foreshadowed her success on the hardwood at both Appalachian State and Jacksonville. Her brother, Reginald Jr., earning 60 tackles over four seasons on the defensive line for Florida International’s Golden Panthers.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Jazmine Jones named to WNBA’s official All-Rookie squad

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

Jazmine Jones, the New York Liberty’s final pick of the first round, was named to the WNBA’s official All-Rookie team unveiled on Sunday.

Sabrina Ionescu was limited to three games in her rookie game, but the New York Liberty still enjoyed rookie representation in the WNBA’s All-Rookie Team unveiled on Sunday.

Jazmine Jones, the final pick of the WNBA Draft’s first round back in April, was named to the league’s official team, a squad headlined by 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield of Minnesota. Jones, 23, is the fifth New Yorker to be named to the team’s official All-Rookie squad and the first since current teammate Kiah Stokes went with Brittany Boyd after the 2015 campaign.

After Ionescu was lost to an injury during the July 29 contest against Atlanta, Jones was called upon to spend more time in the point guard spot, a role she hadn’t played extensively partaken in since her high school days at the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School in Tallahassee. Taken 12th out of Louisville, Jones went on to be one of most consistent contributors on a young New York roster.

Jones finished at or near the top of almost every statistical category amongst rookies, leading every first-year players in steals (1.4 per game). She also earned an averaged 10.8 points over 21 games, a tally anchored by six consecutive games in double-figures. The former Cardinal, joined by her fellow rookie and 13th overall pick Kylee Shook, was also praised for her energy, as she was constantly shown dancing and encouraging teammates on the sidelines despite a tough, lost season.

“The main thing about Jaz is her energy,” head coach Walt Hopkins said about Jones when she took over for Ionescu. “When she brings her energy, no matter what, she brings us a lot. It’s defensive, it’s toughness, swagger. Jaz has been huge for us.”

Joining Jones on the All-Rookie squad is Chennedy Carter (Atlanta), Ionescu’s college teammate Satou Sabally (Dallas), and Julie Allemand (Indiana).

The WNBA playoffs continue this week, with the Finals set to begin on Friday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty’s Jazmine Jones named to AP’s All-Rookie team

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty rookie is the first metropolitan representative on the list since a pair of showings in 2015.

Lou York City woke up to some good news on Tuesday.

New York Liberty draftee Jazmine Jones was one of five players named to the Associated Press’ WNBA All-Rookie Team. The Louisville alumna was chosen with the final first-round pick (12th overall) of April’s draft.

Jones’ rookie season wrapped on Sunday. Her name appeared at or near the top of several major statistical categories amongst first-years. She led her fellow debuts in steals (1.4 per game) and also finished fourth among them in scoring (10.8), sixth in assists (2.3). Overall, she also finished fifth in efficiency rating (10.2).

In New York’s Bradenton bubble endeavors, Jones was called upon to take an expanded role in the point guard position after the season-ending injury to top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu in July. Jones had not played the position since her high school days at Florida A&M’s Developmental Research School in Tallahassee, but earned positive reviews for stepping in. Her impact was felt immediately after Ionescu’s injury. When the top pick left July 31’s game against Atlanta with an ankle ailment, Jones went on to score 20 points in a narrow loss.

“Her stepping up and playing the PG, which is not really her position, she’s doing an incredible job of observing everything that Layshia (Clarendon) is doing, following her way,” veteran teammate Amanda Zahui B observed over the summer. “She also allows herself to make mistakes at first but then correct them. She’s a quick learner and she’s doing great.”

“The main thing about Jaz is her energy,” Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins added. “When she brings her energy, no matter what, she brings us a lot. It’s defensive, it’s toughness, swagger. Jaz has been huge for us.”

Jones ended her season on a strong note, scoring a team-best 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the Liberty’s season finale against the Dallas Wings on Sunday afternoon. Her infantile career-best game through 24 points on August 11 against Los Angeles. It kickstarted a streak of six consecutive games in double-figures for Jones.

Next season, Jones is expected to reunite with former Louisville teammate Asia Durr, the second overall pick of the 2019 draft. In the bubble, Jones was joined by another college teammate, Kylee Shook, who was chosen immediately after her at 13th overall.

Jones is the first Liberty representative on the AP’s rookie squad since 2015, when Brittany Boyd and recent re-signee Kiah Stokes each earned the honor. Other modern nominees for the team include Crystal Dangerfield (Minnesota), Chennedy Carter (Atlanta), Satou Sabally (Dallas), and Julia Allemand (Indiana).

The WNBA’s official awards will be announced throughout the course of the playoffs, which begin on Tuesday in Bradenton’s IMG Academy (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty bench impresses in strong effort vs. Connecticut

Kia Nurse, New York Liberty

Kia Nurse and Jazmine Jones united for 33 points for the New York Liberty in a decent effort against the defending WNBA finalists.

Growth was once again on display for the New York Liberty on Tuesday night, even if the scoreboard wasn’t willing to cooperate.

The Liberty bench tallied 49 points to help keep things respectable, led by a combined 33 from the Kia Nurse/Jazmine Jones tandem. But it wasn’t enough to counter a double-double showing from DeWanna Bonner, who tallied 27 points and 12 rebounds in a 70-65 victory for the Connecticut Sun.

New York (2-14) kept pace with a Connecticut squad in the midst of a playoff push. Head coach Walt Hopkins was pleased with the ensuing effort after his team trailed 18-8 after the first quarter. The Liberty wound up winning the second quarter 24-11 to build a 32-29 halftime lead.

“That second unit tends to do a pretty good job of picking up the energy,” Hopkins said of his bench. “That balance of having one or the other, having a group of players that picks us up, it’s what’s been keeping us in games throughout the year. It’s having the whole group show up consistently that’s been really hard.”

“The story of the game was really how well that second unit played, particularly in the second quarter to bring us back from an 18-8 first quarter. We ended up winning that second quarter 24-11, which is pretty remarkable for a young group. It was great to see.”

Nurse led all New York scorers in the effort with 18 points. Tuesday’s game saw her come off the bench for the first time since August 4, 2018, with Paris Kea taking her usual spot in the starting five. She shot 4-of-11 from the field but got to the foul line 12 times, sinking all but two of her attempts.

“We continued to play hard like we always do. We gave ourselves a chance to win this game,” Nurse remarked of the effort. “We cut it down a bit and traded baskets in the fourth. I think that confidence will help to move us forward in terms of growth as well.”

Assisting Nurse was the rookie Jones, who put in 15 points. Her fellow 2020 draft pick and Louisville alumna Kylee Shook had a perfect day from the field, sinking all four of her attempts from the field and also grabbing four rebounds. Amanda Zahui B followed up a 21-rebound showing on Saturday after against Las Vegas with 10 more against the Sun.

“(Shook) has been working really hard on being more physical,” Hopkins said. “It takes some time when you’re a longer player. You have to learn how to be physical, embrace physicality to create contact. She was so much better in that regard. There’s still room (for improvement), but Kylee really responded and gave us some great minutes.”

Alas for the Liberty, they were unable to sink a win from the defending WNBA finalists. The Sun (8-9) kept the Liberty in check during a strong fourth quarter, which saw them lead by as much as ten. Connecticut, stationed in seventh, is currently three games up on ninth-place Indiana, the first team out of the playoff proceedings. Their effort was helped by a sweep of the Liberty in the Bradenton bubble.

The Liberty return to action on Thursday night against the Atlanta Dream (6:30 p.m. ET, YES/CBSSN). Atlanta previously took an 84-78 decision on July 31.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Kia Nurse sinks team-best 17 in loss to Connecticut

Kia Nurse’s team-best 17 wasn’t enough to overcome a tough third-quarter, as the New York Liberty fell to Connecticut.

One brutal period and countless turnovers once again came back to bite the New York Liberty in the Bradenton bubble.

The Liberty lost the ball 18 times on Saturday night, which led to 33 points for the Connecticut Sun. Those missed chances and a ten-point defeat in the third quarter led to an 82-65 victory for the Sun, dooming the Liberty to their fourth straight double-digit loss. Alyssa Thomas had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while DeWanna Bonner had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“It’s really (about) continuing to find consistency, individually and collectively. That’s going to continue to be about us continuing to be hyper-focused on each individual, where we can get each player the ball where they’re most comfortable,” head coach Walt Hopkins said of the Liberty’s focus over their final nine games. “We really need to shore some things up defensively but it was really the turnovers again. Part of that comes from…people being in positions, being indecisive, and not playing with confidence. I think that’s probably the biggest thing contributing to those turnovers.”

After reaching 85 points on Thursday night against Chicago, the Liberty (1-12) struggled offensively, shooting 37 percent from the field. They were able to keep pace with physicality and stronger defense, as well as continued diversity in their scoring. Four New Yorkers had at least 10 points, one short of the output on Thursday. Kia Nurse paced the team with 17, while rookie Jazmine Jones had 11 more to reach double-figures for the sixth straight game.

But a tough third quarter, which saw the Liberty get outscored 21-11, proved to be their downfall as the team struggled to once again play a full 40 minutes. The team continued to celebrate the little victories, such as Jones’ streak and increased minutes, and Kiah Stokes’ rediscovered propensity to shoot from the outside (sinking two of six attempts and reaching double figures for the second straight game).

There’s no denying, however, that the endless stream of losses can take its toll on a squad, especially with little opportunities to right their wrongs thanks to the bubble’s congested schedule.

“We have so many young people. You can’t stop practice enough, you can’t stop the game enough, because we have to keep playing,” veteran guard Layshia Clarendon, she of 12 points, said. “I think that’s one of the hardest parts for me. I just want to stop, teach, and tell people things, but we don’t have that luxury. We’re practicing on TV every night through our games. You see the different point differentials in some of these losses.”

“Essentially, if you really look at what confidence is, you always have it. It’s just the fact that doubt, or concern…comes into your mind and clouds that,” Nurse added. “The confidence is there, it’s just behind some doubt. You just got to move it out of the way a little bit. You’ve got to be able to let it go. A lot of times, it can’t come from wins and losses. It has to come from the ability to know in yourself, and in your mind and heart that you put that work in.”

Defending WNBA finalists, Connecticut (6-8) has righted their ship, winning five of their last seven after a 1-6 start. The two teams will meet again on September 1.

The Liberty return to action on Tuesday night, facing a rematch with the aforementioned Chicago Sky (7 p.m., Fox Sports Go/CBSSN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Five reach double figures in latest loss

The New York Liberty’s competitive loss to Chicago saw a silver lining of five different New Yorkers score at least 10 points.

The New York Liberty forced the Chicago Sky into some low-percentage shots on Thursday night in the Bradenton bubble. But such a term may well not exist in the Sky’s glossary.

Chicago sank 11 of their first 19 three-point attempts on the evening, keeping a resilient Liberty effort at bay in what became a 101-83 victory. Azura Stevens led the way with 25 points while Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot had 19 each (the latter also earned a double-double with 10 assists).

Despite the loss, members of the Liberty (1-11) seemed comfortable with the effort against one of the WNBA’s elite.

“I’m really proud of the team,” head coach Walt Hopkins said of the effort in a postgame Zoom call. “Chicago’s a heck of a team. They shot the heck out of the ball tonight and made us pay for some lapses in our defense. But what’s been missing is our group believing in themselves, I think. They found that again tonight. Their energy was fantastic. Even when they were making mistakes, their energy was there.”

“Today, we bounced back. We definitely found our identity again,” Jazmine Jones added. “We played hard the whole game. We kept fighting. Chicago, they had a great shooting night. Almost everything they shot went in. But I feel like we played good, we played hard. It’s just about taking that next step, and consistency too. It’s all about being better in practice tomorrow and the next game on Saturday.”

Prior to Thursday’s game, Hopkins was hoping to recapture the spark the Liberty displayed at the start of the month. They earned their lone win of the season to date against defending champion Washington in the span, but the past two games were a struggle. New York had tallied only 64 points in each of their past two games.

But with the exception of a 34-23 deficit in the second quarter, the Liberty only trailed the Sky (9-4) by five after the three remainders. Five players reached double figures for New York, paced by Jones’ 18. It’s the fifth straight game that the 12th overall pick of April’s draft has tallied at least 10 points. Jones has averaged 15.2 points per game in that span.

Behind Jones, Kiah Stokes had a season-high 14 and fell one rebound short of a double-double. Kia Nurse had 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Layshia Clarendon (12 points) and Amanda Zahui B (11) rounded out the list. Nurse would go on to call it the Liberty’s best offensive performance of the season.

“I think we took good shots, we created good shots for other people,” Nurse said. “We moved the ball really well and our offense looks probably the best that is has all season.”

“That’s huge for us moving forward, just knowing and seeing this as a baseline for us, essentially, in knowing what people can do. People played to their strengths today. Jaz is great in the mid-range pick and roll, and that’s what she did for us today, she got to the line. Stokes was great in the post and running in transition. I think that continued throughout the game, that everybody got a little confidence, so hopefully, that continues and that we grow together and build.”

The Liberty won’t have long to wait for another chance at the Sky, as the squads are due for a rematch on Tuesday night. It’s possible Chicago could be without All-Star Diamond DeShields for the second get-together. The third overall pick of the 2018 draft left the game in the first half after landing awkwardly after a shot attempt. DeShields was helped off the court and did not return to the game.

In the meantime, the Liberty will take on the Connecticut Sun on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, CBSSN/Fox Sports Go) for the first of two meetings.

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

New York Liberty: Jazmine Jones earns another career high in late loss to LA (Highlights)

An infantile career-best for Jazmine Jones wasn’t enough to make up for a flat first quarter from the New York Liberty on Tuesday night.

Doomed by a brutal first quarter, the New York Liberty still managed to keep the theme of wrangling positives from a tough loss.

Sydney Wiese and Riquana Williams of the Los Angeles Sparks combined scored 17 points each on a combined 8-of-12 shooting from three-point range, keying a 93-78 victory over New York on late Tuesday night. Liberty rookie Jazmine Jones led all scorers with a young personal-best 24 in defeat.

“I think tonight was more of a team-focused loss,” head coach Walt Hopkins said. “I thought we had some really good individual defensive efforts. Points off of turnovers just absolutely killed us, 26 turnovers for 24 points. Otherwise, I thought that this team was remarkably resilient. It would’ve been easy to lie down and let that be a 30-point game. They just refused to let that happen. I’m proud of them for how tough they are.”

The Liberty (1-7) came out flat in the opening stages of a late tip-off, falling victim to the Sparks’ sharp-shooting from deep. Los Angeles (5-3) sank 6-of-7 three-point attempts in the first ten minutes, creating a 28-14 lead at the first stoppage. From that point on, New York was only able to come as close as nine points despite losing by only one point over the final three stages.

Jones was the most consistent silver lining for the Liberty, coming off the bench to score 24 points and swipe five balls. The Louisville alumna was the 12th and final pick of the WNBA Draft’s first-round back in April.

“Jaz was a much, much-needed spark (especially) in that first quarter,” Hopkins said. “We were having trouble scoring and she kind of willed us, willed us back into that first quarter and kind of gave us some momentum going forward.”

Yet, Jones was willing to sacrifice it all for a win and focused primarily on her five turnovers in her postgame statements. The Liberty turned the ball over 26 times in their latest downfall. Jones also made it clear that her young, historic effort meant little in the context of another loss, saying “I would’ve taken 5 points and us winning rather than 24 and us losing”.

“I had five turnovers myself. For me, personally, that’s unacceptable,” Jones said. “I’m really hard on myself about turning the ball over and I only had one assist too. Being a backup point guard, I can’t come in and turn the ball over. Those five turnovers are unacceptable.”

Five players reached double figures for the Sparks, who won back-to-back games for the first time this season. New York put up a strong performance at the foul line, converting all but one of their 23 attempts. The two squads will meet up against on September 8 in the latter stages of the Liberty’s Bradenton bubble season.

The Liberty return to action on Thursday evening, taking on the Indiana Fever for the first time this season (6 p.m. ET, YES).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty show fight sans Sabrina Ionescu, Kia Nurse (Highlights)

sabrina ionescu, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty were missing two of their star attractions on Friday night, but still took the Atlanta Dream to the brink.

The New York Liberty lost two of their star attractions to injury on Friday night, but still managed to give the Atlanta Dream all they could handle.

Rookie Jazmine Jones led the Liberty with 20 points off the bench after fellow first-year and top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu was lost to an ankle injury in Friday’s tilt against the Atlanta Dream in the bubble at IMG Academy. Atlanta eventually prevailed by an 84-78 final, but the Liberty’s valiant effort without Ionescu and Kia Nurse was encouraging after a one-sided defeat to Dallas on Wednesday.

“We battled most of the game,” head coach Walt Hopkins said in a postgame Zoom conference. “The way that we fought pretty much across the board with our team was impressive and exciting. We responded to the things that we talked about and the things that we worked on. It was good.”

Ionescu, coming off a 33-point showing, rolled her ankle in transition midway through the second quarter. She was helped off the court by a trainer and teammate Leaonna Odom and was and did not return to the game. Hopkins said that Ionescu was likely taken to a local hospital for x-rays, which revealed no fracture and came back negative according to Shams Charania of ESPN. She had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting prior to her forced departure.

Nurse missed the first game of her three-year WNBA career, suffering an ankle sprain of her own in the Liberty’s opening game last weekend.

Friday presented a roller-coaster affair for the Liberty (0-3) who found themselves trailing 12-0 at the midway stage of the opening frame. The scoring efforts of Ionescu and Kylee Shook allowed the Liberty to trim the lead to 22-16 and even took the lead early on in the second thanks to the efforts of an all-rookie lineup. When Ionescu went down, Jones and Layshia Clarendon, a rare New York veteran, helped keep the Liberty in the game.

The rookie Jones, chosen with the final pick of the first round out of Louisville, added two blocks and two steals to her infantile career-best in scoring.

“We have a mindset, all the rookies especially, that when we get in the game, just run up and down the court, be relentless, be tough,” Jones said. “We’re very talented from top to bottom. In our heads, we feel like we have the better bench per say, because we have a lot of rookies that can play multiple positions. It’s just fun that we have this kind of team, that the coaches can put us in different kind of alignments to be successful.”

Atlanta (2-1) threatened to pull away again in the third quarter, again going on an early run and holding the Liberty scoreless for over the first five minutes. Their lead summited at 14 points, but the Liberty once again made things close. New York whittled the lead all the way down to three in the penultimate minute of the game, but the Dream was able to finally hold them off. Rutgers alumna Betnijah Laney tallied a career-best 30 points while Elizabeth Williams had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). April’s fourth overall pick Chennedy Carter fouled out but tallied 17 points.

Clarendon reached double-figures for the third straight game with 16 points, while rookie Layshia Clarendon earned 14 in defeat.

The Liberty and Dream will square off again on September 3.

New York will wrap up a stretch of three games in five days on Sunday afternoon when they battle the Phoenix Mercury (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags