Betnijah Laney
Betnijah Laney

Liberty’s Strong Start Leads to Game 3 Win Over Sun

Looking to gain an advantage in the semifinal series against the Connecticut Sun, the New York Liberty got off to a hot start and responded to any runs in a 92-81 win at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Liberty are now one win away from advancing to the WNBA Finals. 

New York started the first quarter aggressively as Sabrina Ionescu got going early, hitting her first three three-pointers. The Liberty then went on an extended run to close the quarter, led by Ionescu, Stewart and fast-break points from Betnijah Laney to give the Liberty a 37-16 lead. The 37 points marked a Liberty franchise record for scoring in a quarter in postseason history, as New York shot 65% from the field and forced five Sun turnovers. Ionescu and Stewart combined for 23 points. 

“Continuing to just find the open man, and good to great,” Ionescu said about the first quarter. “We were able to get into the paint and get open looks whether inside to cutters or outside to shooters.”

The Liberty did not let their foot off the gas in the second quarter, maintaining their hot shooting. While Connecticut had an 8-2 run to close the quarter, a Jonquel Jones lay-in at the buzzer gave the Liberty a 54-40 lead going into halftime. 

Liberty Leading With Defense

New York had multiple defensive schemes, switching from man-to-man defense and zone, which prevented Connecticut from getting much rhythm going offensively. This also led to fast-break points and early offense from the Liberty, which made it difficult for the Sun to keep up. After being named WNBA MVP before Game 2, Stewart had a strong first half, shooting 6of–8 for 14 points. Courtney Vandersloot also added 10 points. 

The Sun pressured the Liberty in the third quarter, getting within nine points late, but the Liberty were able to take an 11-point lead going into the fourth. It was a physical second half; with the refs calling fewer fouls, the Liberty were able to respond after every Sun run. 

After averaging just nine points in the previous two matchups, Alyssa Thomas gave the Sun a push in the second half after trying to rally her teammates on the bench in the second quarter. 

Strong Play From the Liberty Starters

To start the fourth, Stewart continued her great game. A quick five points and a Jones three extended New York’s lead back to 16, and the Sun were not able to catch up. Jones finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, her fifth consecutive double-double in the playoffs. 

“She’s been great. Just her pursuit of the ball, so many bodies over her, that takes a lot of effort,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said of Jones. 

Laney followed up her strong Game 2 performance with another 20-point night, consistently getting to the basket and knocking down corner threes. Also, after struggling in the first two games, Stewart had a bounce-back game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, including some tough jumpers.

For the Sun, Alyssa Thomas had 23 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists and Tiffany Hayes added 16 points, though Connecticut never led in the game. Rebecca Allen, who has had an impact in this series, missed the game with an illness. 

One Win Away From the Finals

After the game, Stewart said the team’s thoughts were at home with the people of Brooklyn, who experienced heavy flooding on Friday. 

“Thoughts go out to everyone in Brooklyn and those underwater,” Stewart said. “It’s a crazy time, but we’re just trying to represent Brooklyn and the Liberty product well. Hopefully, everyone’s okay… but we’ll try to do something when we get back to help the community.” 

New York will look to close out the series and punch its ticket to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002 in Game 4 on Sunday at 3 p.m. and can be viewed on ABC.