Betnijah Laney made her return to the New York Liberty lineup Credit: Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Two huge home court wins over the Los Angeles Sparks (102-73 on Aug. 2 and 64-61 the following night) put the New York Liberty back into playoff contention. But they fell back out of a postseason spot with two straight road losses, falling to the Phoenix Mercury by 76-62 last Saturday and 86-77 on Monday dropping the Liberty out of the top eight. The WNBA regular season concludes on Sunday with the Liberty facing must-win scenarios in tomorrow’s (Wednesday) road game against the Atlanta Dream and again in a homecourt face-off on Sunday. 

On Saturday night, the Liberty played the Mercury, a team also on the playoff bubble, with Phoenix missing Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The Liberty was playing with a full roster for the first time this season.

“I just don’t think we played with a sense of urgency,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. “We didn’t execute the plays at the start, so that was disappointing because we worked on it so much here. We just got passive. We gave them a lot of confidence. I thought they played well, so credit to them. We did not come ready to play, and it’s really disappointing because at this time of the year you expect a bit of a fight here. None of us were good. I can’t say any of us were good tonight, and that’s disappointing. Credit to Phoenix, they’re down key players, but they really came to play and made it hard for us.”

The game marked the return to action of Betnijah Laney, who was the Liberty’s scoring powerhouse in 2021. “Just trying to be my best self while I am out there and do everything to the best of my ability,” she said. “I am trying to continue to find my rhythm and get my legs back under me. I am trying to go out there to play hard and do everything I can.”

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu became the first player in WNBA history to record 500-plus points, 200-plus rebounds and 200-plus assists in a single season. In the game against the Mercury, Ionescu finished with a team-high 20 points and had five assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block. As always, Ionescu stayed focused on team goals. “We have to continue to grind away and be the best that we can in the games we have left,” she said.

Sunday’s season finale at the Barclays Center will be Fan Appreciation Day.

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