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Preview: Less-heralded players stepping up for Liberty and Wings

The New York Liberty topped a previously unbeaten Chicago Sky team on Sunday, but now have to turn around and face a dangerous Dallas Wings team that is hungry after just barely letting its home opener slip away.

Dallas Wings v Los Angeles Sparks
Isabelle Harrison (with ball)
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The New York Liberty defeated the Chicago Sky 93-85 on Sunday to improve to 4-1, making them the second-best team in the WNBA after being the worst team a year ago. The Liberty can’t afford to celebrate their early-season success, though, as they turn around to face the Dallas Wings at 7 p.m. ET on Monday night in a game that was pushed up a day.

The Wings are looking dangerous. They opened their season with a dominant road win over the Sparks and then gave the now 3-1 Storm all they could handle. The Storm game, which went to overtime before the Wings fell by three, was impressive considering Seattle’s only loss is to a very good Aces team and the fact that Breanna Stewart put up 36 points in the contest.

Arike Ogunbowale scored 28 points in Dallas’ loss and her Notre Dame teammate Marina Mabrey stepped up with 26. Mabrey epitomizes the exclusivity of the 144 team league — she was thought of as having training camp competition coming into this season despite having a breakout season where she averaged 10 points per game in the bubble. She seems to have solidified her roster spot now and could be a key player for Dallas moving forward.

Mabrey led the Wings in playing time on Saturday while No. 1 pick Charli Collier (8:34), No. 5 pick Chelsea Dungee (0:00) and No. 13 pick Dana Evans (7:26) combined for just 16 minutes. No. 2 pick Awak Kuier was not available. Isabelle Harrison (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Kayla Thornton (14 points, 12 rebounds) stepped up like Mabrey, showing that the Wings have a pretty solid team even if you’re not counting the newcomers.

Meanwhile, Sabrina Ionescu has just made the distributing look effortless for the Liberty with games of 11, four, 12, five and 12 assists. In addition, Betnijah Laney is knocking down threes at a 55 percent clip and her mid-range step back seems automatic at times. Sami Whitcomb has yet to put up big numbers in her career, but at age 32 is playing her best basketball and looks less like a 3-point specialist and more like an all-around talent with All-Star potential.

With so many less-heralded players on both sides playing so well of late, expect a great game between the Liberty and Wings.


Game Information

Dallas Wings (1-1) vs. New York Liberty (4-1)

When: Monday, May 24 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: College Park Center in Arlington, TX

How to watch: Twitter or YES or TSN3

Keys to the matchup: Lack of experience is still the one thing preventing people from believing in the Wings. Now they have the experience of playing in an overtime thriller against the defending champs, but it will still be a growing process throughout the season. The Liberty are similar to the Wings in terms of making great improvements this past offseason. The difference is that the Liberty brought in an eight-year vet and two-time champion in Natasha Howard, while the Wings brought in only young pieces. Howard had 12 points and seven rebounds in her New York debut on Sunday. Can her experience bring a little extra something to the Liberty on Monday? Because Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey did not back down against Seattle’s veteran crew on Saturday.

Wings injury report: Allisha Gray (out; temporary suspension), Satou Sabally (out; temporary suspension), Awak Kuier (out; temporary suspension)

Liberty injury report: Leaonna Odom (questionable; Achilles), Jocelyn Willoughby (out; Achilles)