For the first time since 2015, the New York Liberty emerged victorious in a first round playoff series.
The No. 2 seed Liberty, avoiding going to Washington for Game 3, defeated the No. 7 seed Mystics 90–85 in overtime on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to complete a 2-0 sweep in the best-of-three series. They advance to the semifinal round of the WNBA playoffs.
The Liberty took a 46-35 halftime lead but the Mystics roared back in the third quarter, outscoring the Liberty 21-13 and 20-17 in the fourth to force OT. In the extra period, New York was up 88-85 when Mystics guard Ariel Atkins missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to end the potential comeback.
“Today there were highs and lows,” said Liberty forward Breanna Stewart, who paced her team with 27 points and added 9 rebounds. “We knew it was going to be emotional. [Washington] was going to go out swinging. We stayed the course. We didn’t stop playing until the final buzzer.”
Forward Jonquel Jones added 19 points and a team-leading 14 rebounds, and forward Betnijah Laney also had 19 points. Mystics veteran guard Natasha Cloud was sensational in the loss, scoring a game-high 33 points, in addition to registering 9 assists and 6 rebounds.
Mystics star Elena Della Donne, who had an off night with just 11 points, including going 0-6 on 3-point attempts, paid the Liberty respect after the gripping Game 2.
“They’ve got a tough, long defense where they can change up the match-ups and try to get us cross-matched,” said Della Donne. “They keep you guessing and trying to read what’s going on.”
In Game 1 of the series last Friday, the Liberty had four players in double figures—with guard Sabrina Ionescu putting up an exceptional 29 points.
The Liberty begin their best-of-five semifinal round on Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center against the winner of the series between No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun and No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx. The series was tied 1-1 going into the decisive Game 3 in Minnesota last night (Wednesday). Game 2 of the Liberty’s semifinal will be Tuesday night at Barclays.
New York had its best regular season record in the team’s history, going 32-8 and finishing second overall behind the 34-6 Las Vegas Aces. Despite assembling an All-Star laden squad, the team has been committed to collective success. Positive news has kept coming for the Liberty. Laney, who has been a critically impactful performer for the team this season, has signed a multi-year extension through the 2025 season.
Guard Courtney Vandersloot is one of the WNBA’s Peak Performers for 2023, leading the league in assists for the seventh time. In 14 games this season, she had 10 or more assists. Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb was named WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year.
The Associated Press named Breanna Stewart its Player of the Year. This is Stewart’s third such honor since AP started began the award in 2016. Stewart had four 40-point games this year—a WNBA single-season record which tied the all-time WNBA record for 40-point games. She was also selected to the All-AP First Team. Ionescu was named to the All-AP Second Team, her second such honor.