New York Liberty: 3 stars from Thursday’s loss vs. Las Vegas

The New York Liberty fought valiantly but a comeback effort fell short against the Aces.

Defending WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson put in 30 points on Thursday night at Barclays Center, as the Las Vegas Aces used a dominant first quarter to earn a 94-82 victory over the New York Liberty. Betnijah Laney reached 20 points for the eighth straight game, leading the Liberty (5-3) with 23 points, while Rebecca Allen (16) and Sami Whitcomb (14) also reached double figures.

Las Vegas (6-4) jumped out to a 30-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and inflated their lead by as much as 19 before the Liberty mounted a comeback that came as close as one. It was another tough from the field for Sabrina Ionescu (2-13 FG), who was limited to five points. She did earn nine assists and rebounds each, but it wasn’t enough to withstand the Vegas storm.

ESM has three stars for the Liberty in their second straight defeat…

3rd Star: Leaonna Odom

7 pts. (3-3 FG)

Odom, sidelined with an Achilles injury over the first eight games of the season, made her 2021 debut on Thursday. One of the Bradenton bubble’s best-kept secrets immediately made her prescience felt with a block on a driving Chelsea Gray to open the second quarter. Odom sank all three of her attempts from the field and several tipped balls ended Vegas possessions. With Natasha Howard’s return still undated, the return of a defensive stud like Odom could help the Liberty tread water in the meantime, helping them regain their defensive swagger.

2nd Star: Betnjiah Laney

23 pts., 5 rebs.

With every tally of at least 20, Laney edges closer to WNBA history. She became the first player since Lauren Jackson (2009) to open a season by reaching the precipice in each of her first eight games. Laney, Jackson, and Sheryl Swoopes are the only players to reach eight, while Cynthia Cooper (9 in 1999) holds the record. With Ionescu in a bit of a rut (which Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins attributed to potential soreness) Bradenton’s Most Improved Player continues to serve as both a reliable scorer and floor general, often working with exclusively second-unit players in the early stages of games. Such endeavors are only adding to her MVP candidacy.

1st Star: Rebecca Allen

16 pts. 2 rebs., 2 stls. 

Blessed with a sense of fearless shooting and tenacious defense, it feels like Allen was tailor-made to play in the system that Hopkins and his assistants have developed. The union was fully realized and on display on Thursday, as she helped the Liberty back into the game with a dominant stretch of 11 consecutive points in the second quarter, an effort reminiscent of her team-record 22-point showing against Minnesota back in White Plains during her last WNBA season in 2019. As the Liberty continue to work through undermanned times on the roster, Allen’s efforts showcase the depth that has built a winning record in the early going. She’ll likely be relied upon further as she regains her shooting touch and Kiah Stokes goes off to compete in Turkey’s international endeavors later this month.

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