The New York Liberty and the Phoenix Mercury are headed in different directions as the push to the WNBA playoffs nears its end.
The Liberty have won three in a row as they prepare to visit the Mercury, who have lost three in row, on Saturday night.
New York (13-18) has moved into seventh place, but still has work to do. Phoenix (13-19) is in ninth place, but is still in position to grab one of the final playoffs spots.
The Liberty overcame a 20-point second-quarter deficit to defeat the visiting Los Angeles Sparks 64-61 on Wednesday night. Sabrina Ionescu scored eight of her 20 points in the final 2:18 as New York swept back-to-back games from Los Angeles.
“It’s really hard to beat a team on a back-to-back,” Ionescu said. “We were able to get two wins, which is big for this franchise into this playoff push.”
The Liberty, whose winning streak began with an 89-69 victory against Phoenix on Sunday, have won four of their last five games.
The Mercury have struggled all season without star center Brittney Griner, who remains imprisoned in Russia after being arrested for alleged drug trafficking. Her teammates lost to host Connecticut Sun 77-64 on Thursday, just hours after they learned that Griner had been convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison.
“This is a human being and our real-life friend and real-life sister,” Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said. “I don’t expect everybody to give a damn. But we really do.
“And we come out here and we’re still supposed to play this (expletive) game. Nobody wanted to even play today. How are you supposed to approach the game with a clear mind, and the whole group is crying before the game? Because you try to honor her and you try to come out and still play hard for her.”
Phoenix played Thursday without guard Diana Taurasi (quad injury).
–Field Level Media