New York Liberty dominate Las Vegas Aces, 99-66

On Sunday, August 6th, Sabrina Ionescu and the New York Liberty dominated the Las Vegas Aces, 99-66. Their 38-point win was the second largest in team history.

Photo credit: Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

The New York Liberty defeated the Las Vegas Aces 99-61, and handed Vegas their biggest loss of the season. Coming into this highly anticipated matchup, the Aces were 24-2, and fresh off eight straight wins. The 1998 Houston Comets hold the best record in WNBA History (27-3), and the Las Vegas still have the chance to beat that record. The game was broadcasted on ABC and had a sellout crowd of 11,418 fans at the Barclays Center. As of three weeks ago, the WNBA's viewership was up 46 percent compared to last season. The crowd was electric, as the top two teams played the first of four matchups in August. WNBA Commisioner, Cathy Englebert was present, and discussed the growth of the WNBA, which will be touched upon in the next article.

New York Liberty Head Coach Sandy Brondello on a sold-out crowd

Prior to the game, Liberty Head Coach Sandy Brondello talked about the importance of a sold-out crowd.

"I think it's great that people are coming out to watch women's basketball and the WNBA. These are the best players in the world," said Brondello. "We've had great crowds, but really excited about the crowd tonight, because you know it's two really good teams going against each other. "

On Sunday, the New York Liberty hosted their annual women's health game, presented by Empire BlueCross BlueShield. Outside the Barclays, the health fair included mammogram screenings, and additional resources. The Multiple Myeloma Reaearch Foundation teamed up with the New York Liberty, and donated $500 per every Courtney Vandersloot assist, in order to raise awareness.

Before the game, Courtney Vandersloot expressed her gratitude for the awareness, and that her mother suffers from multiple myeloma.

"It's so big not only for me, but for the communityβ€”when I was going through all of this [free agency], when I was meeting with New York, it was really big on them to promise and support me in any way they wanted," said Vandersloot. "For something that's so important to me, and specifically my mom, and the whole community, I'm excited."

The New York Liberty dominated on the Glass

In their first matchup of the season, the Aces crushed the Liberty 98-81, in which New York created seventeen total turnovers. Las Vegas outscored New York in the paint, and had ten steals as a team. This second game, New York made a statement.

Prior to the win, New York had 31 rebounds in June against Vegas. On Sunday, the Liberty grabbed 48 boards, including 14 by Jonquel Jones. The Liberty starting five each seized at least four rebounds, and had key defensive boards by Betnijah Laney, Kayla Thornton, Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, and Sabrina Ionescu. The fight for the boxouts, as well as boards, created twenty second chance points for New York, compared to the Aces zero.

The New York Liberty controlled the boards, with 26 by halftime, and limited the Aces to 12 in each of the halves. We saw several put backs by Liberty's Jonquel Jones, and rebounds that led to three-point shots, made by Ionescu, Laney, Vandersloot, and Stewart. Overall, it was a physical game, and team effort by the Liberty, who rank second in the WNBA in rebounds per game (38.5), and third in opponent rebounds per game (33.4). New York held Vegas star, A'ja Wilson, who ranks third in rebounds, to 7, and the Aces, to 24 rebounds (ten less than their game average).

New York forward Jonquel Jones talked in depth about the difference between this game, and the prior with Vegas.

"I think everybody was just locked in. I think that was the biggest thingβ€”I felt like everyone was on the same pageβ€”when you play defense like that, it's really hard, said Jones."

Coach Brondello on second chance points and rebounding

Coach Sandy Brondello weighed in on the importance of rebounds, and how her team has improved post all-star break. "You want to be a great defense rebounding team, and I think since the all-star break, that's where we really got goingβ€”JJ's been a monster lately. Just really establishing herself down low and being relentless. Those extra possessions certainly did help us. It's just everyone doing their jobs and finishing, " said Brondello.

Liberty forward, Betnijah Laney, was a huge presence on the glass for New York. In 32 minutes, Laney grabbed 9 boards. She also played on key role on defense, as well as the offense.

Sabrina Ionescu dominates

Photo credit: Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

New York Liberty star, Sabrina Ionescu was locked in, from the time of warmups, until the end of the games. Whether in the corner or at the hash, Ionescu wasn't missing any buckets pre-game, and that translated throughout the entire matchup.

The Aces have the highest net rating in the league, and the overall best defense. Sabrina Ionescu, a lethal weapon beyond the arc, was deemed unguardable. Shooting 44 percent from the three-point this season, the Liberty guard finished with 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. It marked her fifth 30-point game this season, which tied her 2022 record. Ionescu had 23 points by the first half, in which she finished the game on 6-10 three-point shooting, and 12-19 from the field.

The third-year guard also leads the league with 94 three-pointers made. New York's Betnijah Laney had a beautiful defensive save, which turned into Ionescu hitting a three-pointer from nearly the logo. The all-star impressed the home crowd, took advantage of open looks, the pick and roll, full court presses, along with off ball screens. Ionescu pounded the lay ins, made crisp, sharp passes, only comitting one turnover.

The New York Liberty had a monster second half

The second half of the game was entertaining, yet simply magnificent. The Liberty went on a 35-9 run with 8 minutes to go, and outscored the Aces 30-9 in the third quarter. On Sunday afternoon, New York shot 50 percent from the field, 44 percent from the three, and made all of their shots at the line. Their 38-point win over the Aces was the second largest in team history, and arguably New York's best game of the year.

Defensive Showdown

Defensively, New York held Las Vegas, the leading offensive team in the league, to just 17 points in the second half. By the end of the first quarter, Aces player, Jackie Young had 8 points, and couldn't be stopped inside. In the second quarter, New York collapsed inside the paint, allowing Aces guard, Kelsey Plum, to knock down threes. The Liberty mainly opted to play man defense, creating the stops in the interior, and switching on screens.

New York made adjustments, and Betnijah Laney played strong defense. Liberty star, Breanna Stewart had a tough matchup with Aces A'ja Wilson, who had 11 of her 23 points in the fourth quarter. Stewart, who had three blocks and steals, held Wilson to 9 points on 2-14 shooting. Overall, it was a solid team effort on both sides of the ball, with terrific ball movement. On offense, they looked for the mismatches, and capitalized on them.

In addition, Courtney Vandersloot finished with ten points, and six assists, which puts her second on the all-time assist list. Her six dimes raised $3000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart on the victory

Sabrina Ionescu, left, Coach Sandy Brondello middle, and Breanna Stewart, right.
Photo credit: Sara Jane Gamelli/Ballislife

If you were watching the game on ABC, the Liberty were having fun as a team. Poised to win a championship with Jonquel Jones, Sabrina Ionescu, and Breanna Stewart, the starting five had 25 assists, and won four straight games. With the amount of talent and options on this team, Sabrina Ionescu gave her thoughts post-game.

"A lot of fun, just being able to share the ball and understand that we have so many weapons and ways we can attackβ€”the more we're able to figure out one another and continue to build chemistry, we're just a tough team to beat, and I think we were able to show that tonight," said Ionescu.

Breanna Stewart was asked about the victory over the best team in the league, and what message that win sent to the league.

"The statement that we made is, we're taking the plays hard, and especially, when we really lock in and are all on the same page, defensively, and offensively. It's hard to stop. We had a 50,40,100 game, which is kind of crazy."

2023 WNBA Commissioner Cup

The WNBA Commissioner Cup is an in-season tournament, where teams compete for funds with the addition charitable donations. The New York Liberty will play the Las Vegas Aces for this year's cup, on Tuesday, August 15th, at Michelob ULTRA Arena. Both Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart gave their thoughts on the upcoming cup matchup.

"It was a goal of ours, obviously, to play for a Commissioners Cup championship. Understanding that, we've set the level of how we need to play every single game, in order to be at our best," said Ionescu.

The New York Liberty are set to face the Aces three more times in August, including for the Cup.

Sabrina humbly talked about her team, what the win meant tonight, and future matchups with Vegas. "Throughout the next month, we're gonna se them a lot, so we have to continue to just make adjustments and play within ourselves and continue to get better." "We are not sitting here jumping for joy that we beat them. I think for us, it's just a wakeup call of how good we can actually be."

Stewart quickly added, "I'm excited for the charter."

The New York Liberty will next face off against the Chicago Sky, at home on August 11th. The Las Vegas Aces will face the Dallas Wings on the road, Tuesday.

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Sara Jane is a full-time Sportswriter at BallisLife, Journalist, and Sports Content Creator on Twitch. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut with her Cat and Dog. She is a Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, New York Yankees, and New York Giants fan. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics.

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