WNBA: New York Liberty unveil 2021 season schedule

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

Just over a month remains before the New York Liberty make their full-time Brooklyn debut, as they’ll battle the Indiana Fever.

The New York Liberty received their schedule for the 2021 WNBA season, which will begin with four games on May 14. New York will battle the Indiana Fever in a Friday night showdown, tipping off at 7 p.m. ET. TV information will be released at a latter date.

This season marks the Liberty’s first campaign as full-time tenants at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which they share with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It also marks the 25th anniversary for the Liberty, one of the three charter franchises remaining in the league that likewise celebrates its silver season (the others being the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury).

After a tough two-win season in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble, the Liberty made several offseason moves that have positioned them as one of the more intriguing teams in the Association. A trade involving the top overall pick in Thursday’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) saw them net former WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, additions that followed the signing of former Rutgers star and reigning Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney. New York will also welcome back several rookie-turned-sophomores from their Floridian endeavor, including 2020’s top overall choice Sabrina Ionescu and WNBA All-Rookie team nominee Jazmine Jones.

The 2021 WNBA regular season will run through Sunday, September 19. A break for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will commence on July 15 and run through August 11. Each of the league’s dozen teams will play 32 games and partake in the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament that will conclude with a championship game immediately after the Olympic pause, setting up the final push to the playoffs. Further details about the Commissioner’s Cup and a planned 2021 All-Star Game will be released at a further date.

Among the notable matchups on the Liberty ledger…

  • The Liberty will open their season with a home-and-home series against the Indiana Fever. New York undoubtedly will be seeking revenge for the 2019 opener, when Teaira McCowan’s buzzer-beater allowed the Fever to escape Westchester Counter Center with an 81-80 triumph. The teams will then meet at Bankers Life Field house for a 2 p.m. matinee matchup two days later.

 

  • Youth in revolt will be on full display on May 25, as the Liberty welcome the Dallas Wings to Brooklyn for a battle between the league’s two youngest squads. It will likely feature the first matchup between Oregon standouts Ionescu and Satou Sabally, a get-together delayed by Ionescu’s injury sustained in the early stages of last season.

 

  • The Liberty’s visit to Los Angeles is the only game scheduled for June 20 and it will likely pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the WNBA’s first game, a 67-57 New York triumph at the Great Western Forum. It will also mark the Liberty’s first meeting with former fan favorite Amanda Zahui B, who signed with the Sparks after five metropolitan seasons.

 

  • Howard and Whitcomb will have to wait to weather the Storm, as the defending champions will visit Brooklyn for a two-part series on August 18 and 20.

 

  • In another happy return, Kia Nurse will return to New York on August 25 in the new colors of the Phoenix Mercury. Nurse, a first-round pick and All-Star in seafoam, was part of the three-team deal that sent Howard and Whitcomb out east.

 

  • The Liberty will conclude the 2021 regular season with a four-game road trip through Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas, and Connecticut before returning home to Brooklyn for their finale on September 17.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Three-time champion Natasha Howard headed to New York Liberty

Former Seattle All-Star Natasha Howard is coming to the New York Liberty in exchange for the top overall pick.

Following the signing of Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb played coy when asked if the team was finished making moves. He gave a more concrete answer on Wednesday afternoon.

The Liberty announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have acquired Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb from the Seattle Storm in a three-team deal. Howard is a three-time WNBA champion and the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“We have the privilege of welcoming multiple-time WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn,” Kolb said in a team statement. “The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated. She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”

New York bids farewell to the top pick in April’s draft, which went to Seattle, as well as former All-Star Kia Nurse and 2020 first-round pick Megan Walker, who were each dealt to the Phoenix Mercury. The Liberty also sent over a 2022 first-round choice (acquired from Phoenix) to Seattle. They get back the sixth overall pick in 2021 from the Mercury, who also get the rights to Stephanie Talbot from New York. Talbot opted out of the 2020 season after coming over in a draft day trade with Minnesota.

Howard, 29, played a major role in three of the last four WNBA championships with the Storm, who took home the most recent title from the Bradenton bubble last fall. She also captured the 2017 championship with the Minnesota Lynx, working alongside then-Minnesota assistant Walt Hopkins, now the head coach of the Liberty.

After winning the Most Improved Player Award in 2018, Howard earned All-WNBA First Team honors in the following year and also picked up the Defensive Player of the Year title. She has averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in her WNBA career, which began as the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft with Indiana.

“I am very excited to be a part of the New York Liberty organization,” said Howard in a statement. “I’m also excited to meet my new teammates and the fans. I’m so pumped about the 2021 season.”

Howard was previously cored by the Storm, giving the team exclusive free agency rights, but now heads to New York as part of a sign-and-trade.

Also joining the Liberty is sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb. At 32, she is now the oldest member on the Liberty roster. Whitcomb has earned numerous accolades in Australia’s WNBL and was part of the Storm’s last two championship treks. Though born in California, Whitcomb holds Australian citizenship and has earned numerous accolades at the WNBL level. She led Seattle reserves with 8.1 points per game off the bench last season and sank all 22 of her free throw attempts.

“Sami Whitcomb will be an instant fan favorite, not only for her elite shot-making ability, but also for her tenacity and drive,” Kolb said. “A two-time champion in her own right, Sami knows what it takes to win in this league, and is exactly the kind of tough, talented, culture-first player we covet in New York.”

In the process, the Liberty will part ways with Nurse and Walker, each of whom partook in the Liberty’s 22-game endeavor in Florida last year. Nurse was one of the so-called “baby vets” on a New York squad that dressed seven rookies last season, alongside Amanda Zahui B. and Kiah Stokes. Nurse tallied 11.6 points per game last season after appearing in her first All-Star game in 2019. One of the aforementioned rookies was Walker, a fellow University of Connecticut alumna who was chosen ninth in last year’s draft. After missing the first four games due to a positive test for COVID-19, Walker partook in 18 games in the bubble, averaging 3.3 points.

“I would like to thank Kia Nurse and Megan Walker for their contributions to our organization,” added Kolb. “The unfortunate part of transactions such as these is that you have to say goodbye to people who have contributed to the team in so many ways. Kia shone particularly brightly in New York, becoming an All-Star in just her second season in the league. Megan’s rookie season was undoubtedly stunted by a preseason COVID diagnosis, but I have no doubt that she will return to top form in the coming years, and that both players will continue to flourish in Phoenix.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Sabrina Ionescu, Kia Nurse top New York Liberty’s ratings in NBA 2K21

As the NBA 2K franchise expands its WNBA content, virtual ratings for 16 members of the New York Liberty have been released.

The New York Liberty’s season in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble has come to an end, but their virtual counterparts are getting ready to take the court.

2K Sports has unveiled the player rankings for the upcoming next-gen console release of NBA 2K21, the latest installment of its long-running pro basketball simulator. The game will feature WNBA squads for the second season and player ratings for each of the league’s dozen teams have been unveiled.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the rebuilding Liberty, who endured a 2-20 record in a year that featured seven rookies, have the lowest team rating amongst the WNBA’s 12 teams. However, New York might yet prove to be a popular choice amongst players, as touted rookie Sabrina Ionescu lead the way with an 81 overall rating. The record-breaking collegiate sensation Ionescu was the top overall pick of April’s WNBA Draft and partook in three games with the Liberty before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury. She was not on the inaugural edition of last year’s roster, though that didn’t stop players and streamers from adding her in later on.

Third-year woman and 2019 WNBA All-Star Kia Nurse comes in a 2nd place with an 81 rating. She joins Ionescu as one of five Liberty players ranked in 2K’s Top 100 WNBA players, joining Layshia Clarendon, Asia Durr, and Amanda Zahui B (all coming in a 79).

Players may also be attracted to the Liberty for their propensity to shoot the three-pointer. The New Yorkers attempted over 600 triples in actuality, and they’re blessed with six players with a three-point rating of at last 80. Rebecca Allen, one of several players who opted out of the 2020 campaign, leads the way at 86, followed closely by mid-season acquisition Paris Kea at 85. Allen, Megan Walker, and Jocelyn Willoughby have all been granted the label of “3-PT specialist” as well. In other positives, New York’s athleticism rating of 82 is tied for the best in 2K’s WNBA with the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Liberty’s full season ratings can be found here.

Working a WNBA license for the second straight season, the game has drastically expanded its work with the Assocation. Next-gen console releases will feature a customized player mode, as well as a franchise mode. NBA 2K21 will be released on November 10 for XBox Series X/S, with a release on the PlayStation 5 due two days later.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Kia Nurse joins TSN as basketball analyst

Kia Nurse, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty All-Star will join her native Canada’s top sports network for their ongoing coverage of the NBA and WNBA postseason.

New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse is adding another skill to her expansive resume.

The Liberty announced on Tuesday that Nurse will be joining Canadian sports network TSN (The Sports Network) for their continuing coverage of the NBA and WNBA playoffs. Labeled “Canada’s Sports Network”, TSN boasts five national channels and carries numerous domestic and international events across their airwaves.

Nurse, a Hamilton, Ontario native, returns to TSN after making her debut during the 2019 NCAA basketball championships. She assured fans Liberty and Team Canada fans that her broadcasting duties would not interfere with her on-court material.

“I’ve truly enjoyed my time in front of the camera as much as I have playing basketball and I’m honoured [sic] to be back to talk about the game I love,” said Nurse in a statement released by the Liberty and TSN. “I’m excited to join the amazing team at TSN, and look forward to expanding my experience as a broadcaster.”

Nurse and her family have routinely appeared on TSN throughout the years. Her father Richard was a receiver for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and her cousin Sarah has represented Team Canada hockey in numerous international tournaments. Nurse’s brother Darnell also plays for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers (whose television rights are owned by competitor Rogers Media).

Chosen 10th overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Nurse recently wrapped up her third season with the Liberty. She averaged 12.2 points and a career-best 2.9 rebounds in the Bradenton bubble, servings as a self-described “baby vet” on a team that dressed seven rookies throughout the course of the 2020 season. Nurse was elected to her first WNBA All-Star team last season.

“We’re extremely excited to have an elite and instantly recognizable Canadian basketball personality in Kia Nurse join our team and connect with fans across the country,” said Nathalie Cook, Vice-President of TSN, in the statement. “We will continue to cheer Kia on in her all-star role on the court, and she will elevate our broadcasts with her insights and in-depth knowledge of the game.”

Nurse has made her mark on Team Canada’s basketball endeavors in recent years. In 2015, the University of Connecticut alumna was named the MVP of the FIBA Americas Women’s Championship, guiding Canada to their first top finish in the tournament since 1995. Nurse would cap things off with a team-best 20 points in the 82-66 win over Cuba in the gold medal game. She is expected to return to duties with Team Canada for the Summer Olympics next year in Tokyo.

The WNBA playoffs continue on Tuesday night, with the Connecticut Sun seeking a 2-0 series lead on the Las Vegas Aces (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Meanwhile, the semifinal matchup between the top-ranked Seattle Storm and the Minnesota Lynx gets underway immediately after, as inconclusive COVID-19 tests postponed the series opener on Sunday. Both the semifinal and WNBA Final stages are best-of-five.

The NBA’s semifinals likewise continue on Tuesday, as the Los Angeles Lakers seek a commanding 3-0 lead on the Denver Nuggets (9 p.m. ET, TNT).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty emerge on wrong end of sloppy tilt vs Atlanta

An opportunity for a win fell by the wayside for the New York Liberty despite a career-best in scoring from Leaonna Odom.

An opportunity for a confidence-boosting win fell by the wayside for the New York Liberty. The team allowed only 62 points, no more than 18 a quarter, to the Atlanta Dream, but a tough shooting night led to a 62-56 loss on Thursday night in the Bradenton bubble. Leaonna Odom and Kia Nurse each led the way with 12 points each for the Liberty (2-15).

Stuck at the bottom of the bubble standings, New York and Atlanta (5-13) combined to shoot just a combined 29 percent from the field. The Dream overcame their own poor shooting with a double-double performance from Courtney Williams (15 points, 13 rebounds). Monique Billings also had seven offensive rebounds that led to second-chance points for Atlanta.

The Liberty were slightly hindered in the interior by the loss of rookie and paint prescience Kylee Shook, who was forced to leave the game in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on a defensive stand. New York also shot 19-of-73 from the field, including 6-of-35 from three-point range.

The Liberty started the game on a 17-8 opening run, anchored by triples from Odom, Layshia Clarendon, Amanda Zahui B, and Paris Kea. They led 21-18 after the opening frame with the Dream anchored by several blocks from Elizabeth Williams. She wound up with six on the evening

New York’s shooting woes dominated from thereon. The Liberty held Atlanta to only 13 points in the second quarter but countered with only eight of their own. A strong defensive effort thus went for naught as they failed to convert on their open looks. It spoiled a career-best 12 points from the rookie Odom, a second-round choice that has been a startling lineup staple since the injury to top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu.

Elsewhere for the Liberty, Zahui B, Kea, and Kiah Stokes united for a combined 29 rebounds. Zahui B (11) earned double-digit rebounds for the fifth consecutive game while Kea set a new career-best (8).

The Liberty return to action on Friday night when they take on the Phoenix Mercury (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go/CBSSN).

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 release statement amidst WNBA’s “day of reflection”

The New York Liberty have released a statement in support of social justice in the midst of Thursday’s postponements in the WNBA.

The New York Liberty have released a statement in the wake of ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice across the professional sports leagues of the United States.

The statement opens with the names of African-American victims of systemic racism and how long it has has been since the respective crimes. Perpetrators of the crimes in question, particularly have yet to face legal repercussions.

“While we will not take the court today, we will continue to stay loud in our pursuit of justice. The New York Liberty organization stand in solidarity with our players and demand justice for #JacobBlake, #GeorgeFloyd, #BreonnaTaylor, #AhmaudArbery, and the many human lives affected by brutal police encounters. We will not be silenced. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”

New York was originally set to play on Thursday night against the Dallas Wings, but the WNBA has confirmed that no games will be held. Three games were scheduled for Thursday in the league’s Bradenton bubble, including one between the Chicago and Indiana and a late-night tilt featuring Las Vegas and Seattle. All postponed games, including three others from Wednesday, will be rescheduled.

Thursday was set to be the Liberty’s annual “UNITY Day” game, with a special focus on social justice. The team hosted a panel on Wednesday late afternoon, featuring guard Layshia Clarendon. New York was among the country’s first professional sports teams to publicly advocate for social justice, wearing warm-up shirts reading “#BlackLivesMatter” prior to a 2016 game.

Each of the WNBA’s dozen teams has worn uniforms bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers executing a no-knock search warrant. The officers in question have not been arrested.

“As the injustices persist, so does the work,” the statement says. “Today marks what should have been the Liberty’s 4th annual UNITY Day game which is devoted to telling Breonna Taylor’s story and highlighting the #SayHerName campaign. In light of today’s protest, our UNITY Day will be rescheduled at a later date.”

Clarendon was among WNBA representatives who spoke with ESPN’s Holly Rowe about the decision not to play. Each of the players present wore shirts calling for the arrest of Taylor’s killers. The team has united with the #SayHerName campaign for thier 2020 bubble proceedings to spread awareness and information of racial injustice and to encourage voting in national and local elections.

“It is important to note that this is not a strike, this is not a boycott. This is affirmatively a day of reflection, a day of informed action and mobilization,” Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike said. “Today, we call upon Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to arrest the officers that killed Breonna Taylor. Today, we call upon Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to investiage the officers that were involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake.”

Those stationed at the Bradenton bubble also hosted a players-only meeting and candlelit vigil.

Members of the Liberty have continued to speak out against racial injustice throughout the year. The incident involving Blake in Kenosha, Minnesota has been no exception.

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 fall in late-night get-together with dominant Seattle

The young, undermanned New York Liberty were no match for the Seattle Storm, who won their ninth in a row.

The best news for the New York Liberty that emerged from Tuesday’s late show with the Seattle Storm? There are no more meetings with the Seattle Storm left on the 2020 schedule.

Seattle, leaders of the WNBA’s bubble proceedings, dominated Tuesday night’s showdown, crushing the Liberty by an 105-64 final as New York reached the midway point of their 22-game season.

“The main takeaway from tonight was that we really didn’t make the simple play,” head coach Walt Hopkins said afterward. “We didn’t drive and kick. We over-penetrated and their pressure, with the sucking in really bothered us. It’s a heck of a team, but we did not execute nearly like we needed to.”

The Liberty (1-10) were able to keep relative pace with the Storm in the first quarter. They fell behind 13-1 to start off, but were eventually able to balance things out to a 27-16 lead after the first ten minutes. But a dominant second quarter, in the form of a 34-12 onslaught, put the game out of hand in a hurry. Jewell Loyd was the leader behind Seattle’s 61-28 halftime lead, pacing all shooters with 14 points in the first half. 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart had 10 in support.

The Storm (11-1) had six players reach double figures overall, paced by former New Yorker Epiphanny Prince, who had 16 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Fellow reserve Sami Whitcomb was also on that list with 14.

New York actually wound up winning the final quarter by a 22-21 margin. The evening’s brightest silver lining may well have been the performance of Kia Nurse.

Nurse, a 2019 All-Star, opened the game with a triple in the first half, but a cutthroat Seattle defense denied her opportunities to get into a rhythm. Stepping into an otherwise all-rookie lineup, Nurse tallied 12 points over the final four minutes of the game, giving her a game-best 21 on the night. Her 6-of-12 performance from the field was by far her best outing of the season. She had spoken earlier in the day of attempting to defeat her early-season struggles through meditation. The treatment appeared to pay off in the final stages.

Hopkins later revealed that Nurse asked to be reinserted to the game despite its one-sided nature.

“At that point, it was just that you could go down fighting or you could go down not fighting. I knew that I had a lot of energy and that I could play as hard as I could,” Nurse said of her decision. “I know it’s tough, especially as a rookie, to be on the court at that time and try to find something, something that works. I told (assistant coach Dustin Gray) that I wanted to go back in, I wanted to help (the rookies) out. I think, for me, it was just about being able to continue to impact the game. Tonight, it was trying to play as hard as possible.”

“The one thing I love about this team from the beginning is how hard we fight, and that’s to the last buzzer.”

Elsewhere for the Liberty, Jazmine Jones scored 10 points, reaching double-figures for the fourth straight game. Paris Kea also made her New York debut, scoring four points in the fourth quarter.

New York returns to action on Tuesday night, taking on the Chicago Sky (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go/CBSSN).

Geoff Magliochetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags