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Recaps: Jones scores 14 in fourth as Liberty win without Ionescu, Howard

Jazmine Jones owned the fourth quarter for a New York Liberty team that narrowly defeated the Phoenix Mercury. Plus, A’ja Wilson, Courtney Williams and Breanna Stewart were phenomenal in wins for the Las Vegas Aces, Atlanta Dream and Seattle Storm, respectively.

New York Liberty v Phoenix Mercury
Jazmine Jones
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Jazmine Jones hit a key 3-pointer with 1:02 to play as part of her 14-point fourth quarter, which lifted the New York Liberty (6-4) past the Phoenix Mercury (5-6), 85-83, on Saturday night at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix.

It was impressive to see the Liberty defeat a good Phoenix team with Sabrina Ionescu sitting out due to ankle tendinitis and Natasha Howard still out with a knee injury. It again spoke to the grit of the team’s third star, Betnijah Laney.

Jones scored all but four of New York’s points in the final frame and received a drive-and-kick pass from Laney (23 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, just one turnover) before the crucial triple, which put the Liberty up 83-79.

“We knew during the clutch moments we wanted the ball in B’s hands because she was doing such a great job of finding people,” Jones said. “She did a great job of finding people all game long. So we knew (if) the ball was in her hands if she started to drive they was gonna collapse and bring two at her. So we just knew as a team we had to be shot ready. And, luckily, B found me shot ready.”

Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said that Jones was the player of the game in his opinion, even though she only scored two points in the first three quarters combined.

“Jaz really put us on her back in the fourth quarter,” Hopkins said. “She kept the offense going, played some great defense. The spark that she is, it’s really remarkable. I thought the times when our offense would break down or Phoenix really locked up and started to guard our actions a little bit better and slowed us down a little bit, Jaz just seemed over and over again to create a shot for herself. She was really tremendous. ... I know there were some really good stats for the other players, but I think Jaz won us that game.”

Laney later made an impressive step-around layup on Brittney Griner (29 points, 14 rebounds) with 34.9 ticks remaining that pushed New York’s lead back to four.

Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith (25 points, five assists) secured a rebound with 4.8 seconds left and her team had a chance to dribble up the floor and tie or win the game on the final possession. However, Rebecca Allen stole the ball from Diggins-Smith as she was nearing a layup attempt and the clock ran out, snapping the Liberty’s three-game losing streak.

“It was really good for us to get back in the win column,” Laney said. “We just want to continue to push forward. Use this momentum that we have right now going into these next few games on this road trip. Just use it to the best of our advantage to come out with some more.”

New York fought hard to maintain a slim lead throughout the fourth. Phoenix tied the game once (72-72 with 6:10 to play) but never took the lead in the quarter.

The Liberty closed the first on a 16-3 run after trailing 11-10. They led by 12 at the end of both the first and second before the Mercury won the third by six.

Sami Whitcomb (six assists) and Kylee Shook contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively, to the winning cause.

Other action

Las Vegas Aces (8-3) over Dallas Wings (5-6), 85-78

A’ja Wilson (28 points, 14 rebounds) recorded her second-highest point total of the season and hauled in 13-plus rebounds for the third-straight game. She converted on a 3-point play with 2:17 to play that began an 8-0 Aces run, which took the team’s lead from two to 10 and put the game away. Liz Cambage (14 points, eight rebounds) scored the final five points of the run, including a 3-pointer with 1:23 to play.

Kelsey Plum added 13 points for Vegas while Satou Sabally notched 24 and grabbed eight rebounds in defeat.

Atlanta Dream (5-6) over Washington Mystics (4-6), 101-78

The Dream were actually down six after one in this one, but finished with a resounding blowout victory that ended a four-game losing streak. The Mystics had won two in a row so this was a big win for Atlanta to show that they still have it.

The Dream had five players in double figures and eight with six or more points. Courtney Williams (three steals) led the way with 21 points while Odyssey Sims had 20 to go along with four assists and four steals. Tiffany Hayes added 18 points and dished out a team-high six assists.

Myisha Hines-Allen led the Mystics with 16 points. Ariel Atkins added 15 points and four steals.

Seattle Storm (10-2) over Connecticut Sun (8-3), 89-66

The Storm easily one this one against a Sun team that was playing without its MVP candidate in Jonquel Jones. Seattle won the first quarter 25-16 before winning the second by five, the third by three and the fourth by six.

Breanna Stewart led the winners with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals while Sue Bird added 13 points and four helpers. Jewell Loyd was held to seven points.

DeWanna Bonner, listed as questionable (back) before the game, scored 14 points for the Sun, as did Kaila Charles in just 16 minutes off the bench.