The Liberty saved their season on Sunday, beating the Aces 87-73 in front of a record crowd of 17,143 fans at Barclays Center.
Every key player came up big for New York. Jonquel Jones led the way, scoring a team-high 27 points. Breanna Stweart was showered with MVP chants in the fourth quarter thanks to her 20-point and 12-rebound performance. Sabrina Ionescu only scored nine points, but hit a couple of key 3s to start the game and get the Liberty going.
Las Vegas got a productive 29-point night from Kelsey Plum and A’ja Wilson had a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 11-point deficit the Aces faced at the outset of the fourth quarter. The biggest concern moving forward for Las Vegas is the injury to Chelsea Gray, who left the game in the fourth quarter and appeared unable to put weight on her left foot. While no updates were provided postgame, she was seen using crutches. Hopefully, she’s okay and can play in Game 4 on Wednesday.
New York came out swinging in the first quarter. Sabrina Ionescu was a sniper once again from deep, hitting a pair of 3s. Jonquel Jones led the early charge with eight points as the Liberty advantage increased to as many as nine points in the opening frame. Head coach Sandy Brondelo made some key defensive assignments changes, most notably putting Betnijah Laney on Jackie Young.
Yep, we have new matchups -- Stewie on Chelsea, Betnijah on Jackie, Sabrina on Kiah Stokes.— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) October 15, 2023
Las Vegas battled back throughout the first half as the trio of Gray, Plum and Wilson exchanged baskets, shrinking the deficit to three points at the break.
When analyzing Vegas’ chance of executing the sweep, a key factor we identified was limiting the amount of runs at the end and beginning of quarters. In the third, the Liberty came out blazing with an 8-0 run. Courtney Vandersloot showed her first significant signs of life in this series, scoring a couple of baskets. Ionescu was the facilitator dishing out a pair of dimes. The Liberty carried this momentum through the end of the quarter and were in full control entering the fourth.
Las Vegas had one more push as Wilson went on her own 5-0 run to bring the Aces within six points with five minutes left. Unfortunately, a potentially series-changing injury occurred during the next possession, as Gray was defending Stewart and hurt her left foot severely enough that she had to be subbed out and never returned to the game.
Chelsea Gray is a game-changer. A series-changer. Hoping her injury isn’t as serious as it looked. pic.twitter.com/LUrIVlURtr— Rebecca Lobo (@RebeccaLobo) October 16, 2023
Las Vegas never got closer as Stewart continued dominating inside the paint, scoring baskets, making her free throws and winning a few key rebounds over Wilson. Ionescu hit a dagger 3 to extend the lead to 15. The Aces’ bench then was cleared. New York won the battle and now has a chance to even the war on Wednesday.
New York has little room for error, but if their key players are stellar, they can beat anyone and even blowout Las Vegas. They did it in the regular season and again in Game 3.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind is: Will Gray play on Wednesday? And if she does, how effective can she be?
No one wants injuries, but they are a part of the game and if the Aces have to play without their star point guard, that might be too much to overcome against a stacked Liberty team. Becky Hammon didn’t have much of an update on Gray’s status, saying postgame, “I’ll let you know when we know.” We’ll be waiting to find out as Game 4 will take place on Wednesday in New York at the Barclays Center at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.