Washington natives Leilani Mitchell (Richmond), Alex Montgomery (Tacoma) and Katelan Redmond (Spokane) are returning for the first time with the New York Liberty. Yet, it’s not exactly the homecoming they’d like.
The Liberty (9-14) is wrapping up a five-game road trip Sunday against the Storm (10-13) at KeyArena. New York is also on the tail-end of a back-to-back. And the Liberty were steamrolled 87-62 at Los Angeles on Saturday. Sparks G Kristi Toliver scored 14 of her final 26 points in the fourth quarter, the Sparks outscoring the Liberty 22-5 overall to end the game.
The Liberty do have a few things going for them against the Storm. Seattle is on a three-game losing streak at home, so that KeyArena steel trap is losing some bite. If the Storm loses a fourth consecutive home matchup, it will be a first since 2000. New York also defeated Seattle 77-59 in June.
Of course Lauren Jackson didn’t play in that game. A four-time Australian Olympian, she arrived in Seattle late Monday and should be more adjusted to the Pacific Coast time zone. Anything to improve her four points and six boards in a loss to Indiana at the buzzer on Thursday.
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 center, averaged 24.7 points in her past three home games against the Liberty. Seattle hasn’t lost at home against the Liberty since 2004.
The Storm is also expected to return F Tina Thompson (left knee) to the lineup. The veteran missed six of the Storm’s past seven games due to the injury. Storm coach Brian Agler is likely to ease her back into the rotation with a playoff berth nearly set.
Even with the Storm’s losing streak, Phoenix with Olympian Diana Taurasi in the lineup remains on a 10-game losing streak. The Mercury are six games behind the Storm for the fourth and final playoff slot in the Western Conference.
New York also is scrapping for a postseason berth despite Chicago being on a nine-game losing streak. A half-game separates the two out East.
It all spells needed win for both sides Sunday at KeyArena.
Perimeter defense will be important for Seattle. Liberty G Cappie Pondexter is averaging 23.4 points on 50 percent shooting in August. Mitchell, a 5-5 point guard, is also playing well, getting time to work with her entire roster during the WNBA’s Olympic hiatus since the Liberty didn’t have any representatives at the London Games.
Mitchell is shooting 50 percent from the field and averaging 5.0 assists this month. Then there’s G Essence Carson, who scored a season-high 22 points against the Storm in June. She has since been replaced in the lineup by Nicole Powell, however.
New York’s strengthened chemistry didn’t matter against the Sparks. The Liberty had 21 turnovers and shot 37.3 percent from the field. In June, it was the Liberty forcing those kinds of problems on the Storm.
“Our two losses since the (Olympic) break have both been high-turnover games,” New York coach John Whisenant told reporters in L.A. “When we’ve taken care of the ball, we’ve won. You can give L.A. credit or give us un-credit.”
We’ll see if Seattle can find its bite Sunday.
There is one other game today.
Washingtonian Courtney Vandersloot (Covington) and the Chicago Sky (8-14) are playing at Connecticut (17-5) on Sunday. As mentioned, the Sky are on a nine-game losing streak. It’s killing chances for them to advance to a first-ever postseason appearance.
The Sun, with MVP/MIP candidate Kara Lawson, are playing some of their best basketball. The East title may be a sure bet for the Sun, but with Minnesota (19-4), LA (19-6) and San Antonio (17-6) already locked into the postseason out West, the overall best record is still within reach for Connecticut. That gives you home court advantage throughout the postseason.
*PHOTO CREDIT: PG Leilani Mitchell (5) and Cappie Pondexter by The Associated Press.