The New York Liberty are likely to advance to the #WNBAPlayoffs semifinals tonight as they are up 1-0 on the Washington Mystics in their best-of-3 first-round series and 10.5-point home favorites for Game 2 with a 7 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN. While the SBIA Model has sprinkled a few plays on the underdog Mystics, its top wager is under the total of 163 points even though the over is 4-0 in the past four meetings. One key Mystics player has promised better defense on Tuesday.
The Liberty were -9.5 at home for Game 1 against Washington on Friday with a total of 163, and New York prevailed 90-75 after losing the regular-season finale at home vs. the Mystics on a buzzer beater.
Sabrina Ionescu scored 29 points to lead the Liberty on Friday and Jonquel Jones added 20 points and 12 rebounds to give New York its first home playoff victory since 2015. Superstar and potential WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart had just 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting for New York and yet the Mystics still were blown out.
Liberty point guard Courtney Vandersloot tweaked her leg during Monday's practice session, but coach Sandy Brondello downplayed the severity of the issue afterward and Vandersloot is not on the injury report. She had seven points and six assists in the opener.
Washington was without center Shakira Austin for Game 1 due to injury and she will not play Game 2. Myisha Hines-Allen was the Mystics’ best player in the opener with career playoff-high 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting and eight rebounds. Washington was just 5-for-22 from deep and didn’t get much from two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, who had a fairly quiet night with 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Eight of her points came in the first half, but Delle Donne didn't attempt a field goal in the third quarter and took just three shots in the fourth.
"They're giving her a ton of attention when we're setting off-ball screens for her, and we've got to make sure we're giving her the right space to operate," Coach Eric Thibault said. "I thought we maybe lost her on the weak side a few times, but it's hard. You're trying not to call a lot of plays and totally lose your pace and your rhythm, but when the possessions get a little ugly, you want to make sure she touches it. That's a fine balance and it's one we've got to do a better job with, starting with myself."
#BallOnOurTerms did not stay in New York all weekend but traveled back home. If Washington pulls the upset, Game 3 would be in D.C. on Friday night. The total has gone under in eight of the Mystics’ past 11 playing on at least three days of rest.
“We have an opportunity to do it here at home in front of our fans,” the Liberty’s Jones said of finishing the series off tonight. “Not to look too far ahead, but to be able to stay here and get ready for the next round, to not go into a hostile environment in D.C. because they have great fans as well. So our job is to be able to go out there and close it out and get the job done.”
Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has said she's guarding Ionescu for 40 minutes in Game 2 after New York’s star drained seven three-pointers in the opener. Cloud added that that Washington’s Game 1 defense "lazy" and that “the [Liberty] have a rude awakening [Tuesday].”