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Turnaround teams (Wings and Liberty) square off

It’s the two lottery teams who have turned it around. It’s the league’s two .500 teams. It’s the exact middle of the standings. The Dallas Wings take on the New York Liberty with a winning record on the line.

Dallas Wings v New York Liberty
Betnijah Laney (left) and Arike Ogunbowale (right) were two easy All-Star picks.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings and New York Liberty clash on Monday night in a battle between the only two .500 teams in the WNBA — the two teams right in the middle of the standings.

2021 has been a turnaround year for both squads. The Wings are 9-9 after going 8-14 last year and the Liberty are 9-9 after going 2-20 last year. 2020’s other two lottery teams, the Atlanta Dream (7-15 to 6-11) and Indiana Fever (6-16 to 2-16) have not been as successful.

The Liberty’s start to the season seemed more legitimate than the Wings’ — they started off 5-1 while the Wings impressed with a 23-point win in their opener, but struggled to win close games in their next four. Still, the Wings were seen as a team that was still growing and were credited for coming close to winning until they final went on a 4-1 run to improve to 5-5. They returned to .500 at 8-8 and again at 9-9, but haven’t been above .500 since they were 1-0, so this is a big game for them.

New York, on the other hand, has fallen from it’s high perch with a 4-8 record since being 5-1, including a 2-7 stretch. The Liberty are 2-1 in their last three and are coming off an incredible 23-point comeback against the Washington Mystics. Dallas is also coming off an impressive win: a 100-91 triumph over the fifth-place Chicago Sky. Both teams have momentum and both will be hungry to rise above .500.

The Liberty have of course been led by first-time All-Star Betnijah Laney as well as Sabrina Ionescu and Sami Whitcomb. When they defeated the Wings in the first matchup between the teams on May 24, they also had star player Natasha Howard, who had 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. Howard went down with a knee injury in that game, has not played since and will be out for Monday’s contest.

Dallas has two All-Stars in Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally. Like New York, it is fueled by scrappy players who continue to step up. For Dallas that’s Marina Mabrey, Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison, Kayla Thornton and Tyasha Harris. For New York it’s Michaela Onyenwere, Rebecca Allen, Reshanda Gray, Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook.

Game information

Dallas Wings (9-9) vs. New York Liberty (9-9)

When: Monday, July 5 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY

How to watch: Facebook or YES or BSSW+

Key to the matchup: Marina Mabrey. She’s the X factor for the Wings. She was a model of consistency to open the season, scoring in double figures in each of her first nine games (18.8 points per game on average). Since June 8, she has played in nine more games and averaged 10.9 points, a slump that was likely the difference between her making and missing the All-Star Game. Over the last nine games she has been wildly inconsistent with three games of two points or less and two with a career-high 28. While Mabrey’s scoring totals have not always aligned with team success this year, that is obviously a huge gap and Dallas is much more dangerous if she scores closer to the 28 end of the spectrum.

Wings injury report: none

Liberty injury report: DiDi Richards (questionable; neck), Rebecca Allen (questionable; foot), Natasha Howard (out; knee), Jocelyn Willoughby (out for season; Achilles)