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New York Liberty fall just short vs. Chicago (Highlights)

06/20/2019
Geoff Magliocchetti

Amanda Zahui B.had a double-double before bidding farewell, but the New York Liberty failed to keep their hot streak alive against Chicago.

Amanda Zahui B. earned a party favor in her bon voyage party. Unfortunately for her New York Liberty, a win wasn’t among the gifts.

Zahui B had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the Chicago Sky, paced by 25 points from Courtney Vandersloot, escaped the Westchester County Center with a 91-83 victory on Wednesday night.

The Liberty (3-6) are now 2-4 at home this season. Each loss in the quartet of defeat has come by single digits, a combined 23 points.

“We battled, good energy, (but) there were too many easy opportunities we didn’t take advantage of both offensively and defensively,” head coach Katie Smith said. “Turnovers in bad spots. Nine turnovers for the game isn’t bad for us, but layups we got to finish, especially easy opportunities. The opportunities were there. We just got to finish them.”

It was a somber farewell for Zahui B, who is set to depart for the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket competition in Serbia and Latvia. The center will represent her homeland Sweden, which is making its first appearance in the bi-yearly tournament since 2015. They open against Montenegro next weekend.

On a personal level, Zahui B has likely been playing the best basketball of her career. Over the past five games, including three Liberty wins, Zahui B has averaged 16 points and 8.6 rebounds. That tally includes a 37-point performance on Saturday in Los Angeles, the best scoring output from anyone in the WNBA this season.

Personal accomplishments, however, were no consolation to the Stockholm native.

“I didn’t want to leave and I don’t want to leave with a loss,” she said. “I’m upset we didn’t get the win today and leave on a better note…but I know (the team) will keep pushing. We learn pretty quick and trust the process.”

While Zahui B is eager to represent Sweden and help them improve on their best EuroBasket finish of seventh in 1987 and 2013, she’s going to miss her teammates dearly.

“I love them to death. Every single one of them,” she said. I really love this group. The people who came in this year, Tick (Tiffany Bias), Han (Xu) and Asia (Durr), they’re my babies and I just love them.”

Zahui B is one of four New York players partaking in European competition. Bria Hartley (France) left last week, while Kiah Stokes (Turkey) and Marine Johannes (France) have been there all season. The tournament runs through July 7.

Smith has spoken with both general manager Jonathan Karl and the league about adding a temporary free agent in the interim. The Liberty are down to nine active players when Rebecca Allen‘s hand injury is factored in.

“I hope to win some games. Nothing changes. Next man up,” she said. Smith further hinted the departures could mean new opportunities for players like Xu and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe. “There are opportunities to be had. It’s up to us to put them in a position to have success.”

In other Liberty positives, five players reached double figures in scoring, led by Durr with 19. The rookie has averaged 11.6 points in the same five-game stretch.

“I think our energy from start to finish is great. I think we come into the games, our tempo is better on a consistent basis,” Smith said. “This team has been locked in. We had five people in double figures. I think there are positives that we’re building on. I want to keep doing that.”

Chicago retorted with four players in double-figures, including Cheyenne Parker, who put in 13 off the bench. The Sky (5-2) did not lose the lead after the first quarter, inflating it to as much as 13 in the final frame.

New York escaped disaster after the halftime period. Kia Nurse had left the game with an apparent ankle injury while diving for a loose ball but partook in the rest of the game. Afterward, she was in good spirits and ready to move forward.

The Liberty return to action on Saturday night, as they take on the Minnesota Lynx (8:00 p.m. ET, NBATV). New York previously took a 75-69 decision from the Lynx on June 12 in White Plains. They’ll return home on June 28 against Dallas.

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