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WNBA: Liberty, in scramble for playoffs, face Storm

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The New York Liberty, who have lost a season-worst five straight games, are in danger of missing the WNBA playoffs.

And New York (11-17) will be the underdog again Thursday night when they visit the Seattle Storm (18-10).

The Liberty, who are 5-8 on the road, have lost eight of their past nine games overall. What once seemed like a sure-fire playoff team is now a club in peril, with just four games remaining on their regular-season schedule.

In the battle for the league’s eighth and final playoff berth, the Liberty are in a virtual tie with the Washington Mystics (10-16), who are idle until Saturday. The Liberty also are just a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks (10-17), who will visit the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday.

Despite New York’s recent struggles, the Liberty’s 2021 All-Star, Betnijah Laney, is having a breakout season. The Delaware native ranks ninth in the league in scoring (17.8) and eighth in assists (5.1).

“I’m really happy to be in New York — the culture of the team, just everybody that I’m surrounded by,” said Laney, who played her college ball at nearby Rutgers.

Meanwhile, Seattle, which is on a three-game losing streak, has clinched a playoff berth. The Storm split two games with the Liberty last month, although both of those contests were in New York.

This time, the Storm will be at home, where they are 8-5.

Seattle’s team leaders include Breanna Stewart, who is tied for third in the WNBA in scoring (20.3) and rebounds (9.9); Jewell Loyd, who is eighth in scoring (18.0); and Sue Bird, who is fifth in assists (5.5).

Stewart, who is also tied for second in the WNBA in blocks (1.8), has had a lot of excitement of late. She won her second Olympic gold medal on Aug. 8 as her Team USA defeated host Japan. The next day she flew to Idaho, where she — along with her wife, former Spanish basketball player Marta Xargay — became first-time parents to their daughter, Ruby.

They used a surrogate, who carried an embryo that had been created with one of Stewart’s eggs.

“It took my breath away,” Stewart told The New York Times.

Five days after winning Olympic gold, she helped the Storm win the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup. Each Seattle player pocketed $30,000, and Stewart got an extra $5,000 as the MVP.

Over the past year, Stewart also has won a pro title and MVP honors in Russia; a EuroLeague championship and MVP honors there; and the 2020 WNBA title and, of course, the league’s Finals MVP trophy.

“This is why we play,” Stewart said, “to be in these moments.”

–Field Level Media

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