Brooklyn, NY —-The NY Liberty look like a whole different team in the second part of the season. The Libs jumped on the Aces from the tip-off and didn’t let off the gas pedal.
New York Liberty (22-6) made a statement after a 99-61 victory over the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, the 38-point defeat was the largest loss by a team holding the WNBA’s best record in WNBA history.
It was also the Aces’ largest defeat since the franchise moved to Las Vegas in 2018.
The Liberty have won four straight and snapped the Aces’ eight-game winning streak, handing the Aces (24-3) only its third loss of the season in front of a loud sellout crowd of 11,418.
“We just proved to ourselves what we’re able to do,” guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “We’ve set the level of how we need to play every single game in order to be at our best .We’re not sitting here jumping for joy that we beat them. It’s just a wake up call of how good we can actually be, and that’s the standard of New York basketball. Now we have to continue to get better throughout the next month.”
Sabrina Ionescu led the way with 31 points and Breanna Stewart finished the game with 23 and 18 points in the second half. Ionescu was dropping bombs from the Barclays parking lot and had the Aces guards looking helpless.
At the end of the first, the Aces were up 22-19 after a few runs and Kelsey Plum draining shots from the perimeter. The Liberty had no answer for the Plum and the Aces’ perimeter game.
Ionescu hit three long threes in a row—the Liberty took control of the flow of the game and went into the break with a 49-44 lead.
In the second half, the Liberty made some defensive adjustments—-they move Stewy on Plum and it made it difficult for Aces to run their offense effectively. Wilson was slowed down to single digits (9 points on 2-for-14 shooting from the field). Guard Jackie Young led the way 16 points for Las Vegas.
“We’ll see how I feel in the morning but right now I’m good,” Wilson said. “I’m going to hold myself accountable, for me to be 2-of-14. God, please don’t ever let me shoot like that again. At the end of the day, I’m going to always shoot the basketball, because my teammates need that from me. I didn’t have it today. That’s not going to shatter my confidence.
Courtney Vandersloot has six assists to move into second place all-time on the league’s career list by passing Ticha Penicheiro’s mark of 2,599. Vandersloot has 2,600 in her career now. Sue Bird is the all-time leader with 3,234.
“This is the best team in the WNBA right now and they were coming onto our home floor, they kicked our butts the last time we saw them — so there’s an extra level of focus that it takes,” Vandersloot said. “And this isn’t a team that you can just come in and show up and roll the ball out and play. You really have to game plan and execute, and I think that we did a good job of that tonight.”
Wilson had a tough game, she had a scare late in the first quarter when she caught an elbow to the face from Jonquel Jones on a post up move in the lane with 53.4 seconds left. It was the first foul of the game.
Las Vegas was also doubled up on the board 48-24 behind a combined 30 boards from Jones, Betnijah Lane and Kayla Thornton. Laney and Thornton chipped in five of the Liberty’s 17 3s which they Libs needed for the win.
“That’s a good old-fashioned ass-whooping,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “But I don’t mind getting our ass whooped every now and then. It’s a good reminder that you’re still human and you’ve got to go out and prove it every moment. Lord knows we’re going to see them plenty this year.”