Despite four players scoring in double figures—Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb and Sabrina Ionescu—and what coach Walt Hopkins described as definite improvements, the New York Liberty suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Dallas Wings, 77–76 on Saturday. With the win, the Wings secured the seventh playoff berth. With just one spot in the WNBA playoffs remaining, the Liberty’s chances of securing it are growing less likely.
“Losing is a challenge,” said Hopkins. “This group has played well enough, I think, in a few of these games that they could have won. One of the things we talk about afterward, we’ve talked it out the last few nights too, is that everyone is frustrated, everyone wants to win. It’s very clear how badly this group wants to win.
“The important part is seeing the long-game, and that’s a really challenging thing to do in these moments,” he added. “Something we talk about a lot is seeing the big picture and understanding. … The message is to stay together and stay the course. It’s about progress and not perfection.”
Although clearly disappointed after the loss, the players concurred with Hopkins’ sentiments. Laney emphasized that it is important for the players to stay together and keep working to improve.
“We’ve been able to see progress even though we’re not getting the results that we want,” said Laney. “We continue taking steps in the right direction. Making sure that we’re accepting the positives and trying to fix the negatives.
“We’ve had progress, so if we keep that going into these [last two] games and we tweak those things that have been holding us back and we really focus in and make that adjustment so that we’re not having the same things over and over again, I think that the progress in the details that we’ve been making…will hopefully show up and give us the results that we want,” she added.
The problem is the regular season wraps up tomorrow. If the Liberty don’t make the playoffs, the players will scatter to the wind, most of them heading overseas. By the time the team reconvenes for training camp next spring, the roster may be quite different and that means starting all over again. So, management needs to put together a team of players and coaches primed to win right from the jump.
The Liberty wrap up the regular season tomorrow on their home court at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tomorrow playing the Washington Mystics for the eighth playoff spot.