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New York Liberty win streak ends at the hands of Las Vegas (Highlights)

07/08/2019
Geoff Magliocchetti

The New York Liberty’s four-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday when they were soundly beaten by the Las Vegas Aces.

The New York Liberty’s luck finally came up snake eyes against a team from Sin City.

Liz Cambage led the way with a double-double, combining with Kayla McBride‘s 24 points to give the Las Vegas Aces a 90-58 win on Sunday afternoon at Westchester County Center. Las Vegas thus takes the three-game season series with two wins by a combined 67-point margin.

“Tough one. We got our butts beat,” head coach Katie Smith admitted in her postgame statements. “We didn’t handle (Las Vegas pressure). We can find things, dictate, but they made us turn it over. I don’t think we were strong with the basketball.”

Las Vegas (9-5) moved into a second-place tie with idle Connecticut in the WNBA standings. Much like June’s 35-point triumph at Mandalay Bay Events Center, the Aces dominated much of the game. They were anchored by Cambage on the interior and McBride on the outside. Las Vegas would score 12 of the game’s first 14 points and lead 26-12 after the first quarter.

The Liberty (7-8) made things interesting in the second quarter, trimming the lead to as little as eight points. A 10-0 run was punctuated with a pair of three-pointers from Asia Durr.

The Aces reestablished their lead to 12 by the end of the half. Complete domination commenced in the second half, with Las Vegas winning it 46-26. New York desperation led to mistakes. The Liberty turned the ball over 19 times and shot 30 percent (22-of-74) from the field. McBride and Cambage combined for 55 points on 15-of-24 shooting. The latter added 11 rebounds to her 21 tallies for her third double-double of the season. They perhaps took advantage of a tired Liberty team that was coming home after playing in three cities over the past week.

Smith mostly dispelled the travel notions and instead expressed displeasure with the team effort.

“I wasn’t pleased with the effort we had at both ends … I wasn’t real pleased today by the overall effort from tough to bottom,” she said. “I wasn’t real pleased with the way we turned the ball over, handled the pressure. That’s not something we should be okay with.”

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Tina Charles led the way with 13 points for the Liberty. She was the lone New Yorker in double-figures as fellow top scorer Kia Nurse missed her first 11 attempts in a 1-for-13 shooting performance. Tanisha Wright made history by passing ex-Liberty star Teresa Weatherspoon for 11th place on WNBA’s all-time assists list. She ended the game with 1,339 in her career.

Westchester’s crowd did enjoy a silver lining in the form of Han Xu. The touted rookie from China has become a fan favorite despite struggling to gain traction in the lineup. Han had been held in the Liberty’s prior three games entirely.

But as the situation became direr, she energized the crowd in the second half. The loudest cheers came when she approached the scorer’s table in the middle of the third quarter. They were exceeded when Han sank her first career three-pointer at home in the final stanza.

Defensively, Han held Cambage scoreless over five minutes of coverage. She ended the game with 7 points (3-of-6 FG), 3 rebounds, and 1 block.

“I thought she held her own on the defensive end, did a nice job on Cambage,” Smith said. “As I (said) when she first got here, the kid can score, looks to score, can shoot it. That’s one thing that she brings.”

“Before the game, I was nervous because I didn’t play for a few games. I didn’t have that confidence. But after that shot, all the confidence came back,” Han said through translator Xiaoxue Chang. “I was shocked so many people cheered for me. I didn’t know why that happened. But I was happy. So when I’m on the court, I will play for everyone, myself, for the team.”

Sunday’s game ended a stretch where the Liberty were playing with nine women on their active roster. The injured Rebecca Allen (hand fracture) remains out indefinitely, but the Liberty are set to welcome back four players from service in the FIBA EuroBasket Women’s competition in Serbia and Latvia. Bria Hartley and rookie Marine Johannes helped France reach Sunday’s championship final. The French fell to Spain 86-66 despite 17 from Hartley. Also returning are interior threats Amanda Zahui B.(Sweden) and Kiah Stokes (Turkey). Stokes and Johannes will each make their season debuts.

Smith told ESNY that she expects the group to be ready for the Liberty’s Friday visit to Chicago (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3). The Liberty will need to let as many as three players go, players who helped them achieve a 4-2 mark that reinserted the team into the WNBA playoff picture.

“That’s the hardest part of our job in training camp and this,” Smith said in an exclusive pregame report. “It’s nothing that they’ve done, it’s just the numbers. I have such a respect for all the players who lace then up even knowing that could be a short time.”

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