New York Liberty
(Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

With seemingly everything stacked up against them, the New York Liberty kept pace with a hungry Las Vegas Aces team gunning for the playoffs.

Doomed to their 11th consecutive loss, Wednesday night served as a microcosm of the 2018 New York Liberty season, as another respectable effort against a strong team was forgotten in the midst of another defeat.

Kayla McBride scored all 15 of her points in the fourth quarter, while rookie sensation A’ja Wilson added 19 more, and the Las Vegas Aces kept their playoff push rolling, defeating the Liberty by am 85-72 final at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The Liberty dealt with a ridiculous amount of factors working against them, and wound up, for the most part, keeping pace with a Las Vegas team in desperate need of a win. New York (7-25) was not only missing Shavonte Zellous (ankle), Epiphanny Prince (knee), and Amanda Zauhi B (hip), but also their superstar, as Tina Charles was a late scratch with back spasms.

But in perhaps their most gallant effort of the season, as they wound up cutting the lead all the way to single digits in the second half, even as they trailed by as much as 24 in the early going. Las Vegas (14-18) pulled away in the late stages, but the strong effort was to be commended, the idea of tanking completely cast aside even as the season has taken such dire turns.

3rd Star: Kia Nurse

With an uptick in minutes in the late stages, can Nurse force her way into a crowded WNBA All-Rookie team picture? She certainly made her case as she partook in the New York comeback, tying for the team lead with 14 points. It was the first time she reached double-figures since her first-career start on August 6.

2nd Star: Brittany Boyd

With Charles sidelined, Boyd took over quarterbacking duties on the court. Her leadership helped spark the comeback, as she did it all on the stat sheet, tallying 10 points, six assists, and four rebounds. Boyd began the season on the injured list, but has taken over as one the Liberty’s leaders with the injuries taking their toll.

1st Star: Sugar Rogers

Rogers played 65 minutes over the past two nights, and she made each one of them worth it. With a career-high 10 rebounds, as well as 11 points, Rogers earned the first double-double of her career.

How It Was Decided

The Aces took advantage of the undermanned and exhausted Liberty in the early going, instantly hopping out to a 22-3 lead. They’d go up as much as 24, but a strong second quarter from the Liberty, a frame they not only won 23-15 but ended on a 17-6 run to make it a 46-33 deficit after 20 minutes. The third quarter was perhaps even more impressive, as the Liberty got it down to single digits, cutting the lead to 62-53.

In the fourth, however, the Aces took over in the form of their veteran All-Star McBride. Held scoreless for three quarters, she exploded for 15 in the final frame, keeping the Aces at a healthy distance. The Liberty cut things back to eight points with just under three minutes to go, but McBride baskets put the Vegas crowd into a frenzy.

Game Notes

  • In their first year under the Aces incarnation, Las Vegas pulled off a sweep of the Liberty under the guidance of former New York head coach Bill Laimbeer.
  • With the win, Vegas is now tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Dallas Wings. Though Dallas owns the tiebreaker via two early wins over Vegas, the two teams will square off on Friday night at College Park Center.
  • Kiah Stokes played a team-high and personal season-high 34 minutes. With 11 rebounds, she reached double-figures in the stat for the third time in her past four games.
  • Bria Hartley tied for the Liberty lead with 14 points. She has reached double-figures in scoring in each of her past three games.
  • This was the first game Charles missed since June 29, 2016, against Phoenix.

What’s Next

The Liberty will play their penultimate game of the season on Friday night, squaring off against the Seattle Storm (10:00 p.m. ET, MSG+/NBATV). They’ll look to steal a win against the league-leading Storm, who have already clinched one of the two double-byes in the WNBA playoffs, and will clinch homecourt advantage straight through to the WNBA Finals with a win or Atlanta loss.

In their last meeting, the Storm ran away from the Liberty in a return to Madison Square Garden, a 96-80 triumph on Aug. 6.

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