WNBA Weekly Wrap: Liberty on a hot streak

Published August 15, 2023, 1:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The Aces have been the best team in the league this season. But the hottest team in the league right now is the New York Liberty.

Game of the week

The Seattle Storm don’t have much to play for. At 9-21, they’re clearly a rebuilding team right now. As with any team starting from scratch, mounds of losses are expected. But, that doesn’t mean they should simply give up wins to opposing teams. They’re still out to build good habits and play for pride. Maybe along the way, they can surprise a few teams ranked above them.

Against the Atlanta Dream last week, that’s exactly what happened.

Late in the third quarter of that game, it seemed like the Dream had the game wrapped up. Allisha Gray scored on an and-one bucket to give Atlanta their biggest lead of the game, 56-40. They opened the fourth quarter with a bucket by Haley Jones to keep their advantage at 15.

That was when the Storm brewed their comeback. Ezi Magbegor asserted her will in the paint and led the Seattle comeback. She scored nine points on a 16-0 run by the Storm, including a layup with 2:19 left in the fourth to give them their first lead of the game.

Gray gave the Dream the lead back with a jumper right after Magbegor’s layup. The two teams traded defensive stands in the final two minutes, until Jewell Loyd scored on a layup with 13 seconds left to give Seattle the lead for good.

Loyd had a rough shooting night but still led the Storm with 19 points. Magbegor was a beast on both ends, scoring 17 points, hauling down 11 rebounds, and blocking two shots in their win.

Big-time baller

A’ja Wilson’s MVP campaign took a hit when the Las Vegas Aces bowed to the New York Liberty for their third loss of the season. She was limited to just nine points on 14.3 percent shooting. Far from her efficient 21.2 average this season.

Wilson bounced back in a big way after that awful outing. She dropped 28 points on 55.6 percent shooting against the Dallas Wings and followed it up with a career-high 40-piece on 68 percent shooting in the win against the Washington Mystics. Wilson came back to earth against the Dream, scoring only 21 points. But she made an impact defensively, garnering five steals and two blocks.

In the three games after the loss to the Liberty, Wilson averaged 29.7 points on 54.5 percent shooting, along with 11.7 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. Those three games were all blowout wins.

Team in the spotlight

The Aces have been the best team in the league this season. But the hottest team in the league right now is the New York Liberty. They’re on a six-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 games.

The Liberty started off slow with Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot all trying to find their groove playing together. Now, those four superstars are humming. 

Take Stewie for example. Early in the season she had to carry a heavy scoring load to get the Liberty to the finish line. In their last six games, she’s managed to score less than 20 points in two games, but the team still got the win. But when a big game is needed from her, Stewart still steps up. Just like in their latest win against the Indiana Fever where she exploded for 42 points.

Ionescu has been the perfect second option for the Liberty. She can practically do it all for the team. She can back up Stewart with big-game scoring, like when she led the team with 31 points against the Las Vegas Aces. She’s a great secondary playmaker and a solid rebounder at the guard position too.

Jones has manned the paint for the team, grabbing double-digit rebounds in four of the team’s last six wins. Vandersloot is setting the table for everyone on the team, making sure everyone eats, averaging eight assists in the last six games.

The Liberty have clinched a playoff berth just like the Aces and it looks like the two are headed for a collision for this year’s WNBA crown, just like everyone expected before the season began.

Watch out for… 

All eyes this season have been on the Aces and Liberty. That means what Alyssa Thomas has been doing might be taken for granted this season.

Thomas is averaging a near-triple double with a 15-10-8 line. These aren’t just empty stats. She’s led the Connecticut Sun to a 21-9 record this season, third behind the Aces and Liberty.

Her last six games have vaulted her to the top of the WNBA MVP ladder. During that span, she’s averaging 18.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists. In those six games, she had back-to-back triple-doubles. She started off with a 17-14-11 line against the Minnesota Lynx and topped it with a 21-20-12 line in the turnaround game against the same team. 

AT is the queen of triple-doubles. She has the most triple-doubles in the history of the league with nine. She has the record for most triple-doubles in a single season with three this year. She’s the first player to ever record back-to-back triple-doubles and a 20-20-10 trip-dub. Last season she was the first player to ever record a triple-double in the WNBA Finals.

The scary thing about Thomas is she’s not done yet. She still has the rest of the season, the playoffs, and if she continues to play out of her mind, maybe the WNBA Finals to keep making history.