On a day that the game on the court seemed to take a backseat to Seattle Storm star Sue Bird’s final game in her hometown, it was only fitting she put the dagger in the New York Liberty’s heart.
The Liberty fell 81-72 to the Storm and dropped their second game in their last five contests. New York fell to 6-16 on the season and sits six games back of first in the Eastern Conference.
Marine Johannes led the Liberty with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range. Sabrina Ionescu finished the matinee game with 12 points along with 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Natasha Howard had 11 points in the loss, while Sami Whitcomb also contributed 11 off the bench.
Gabby Williams led the Storm in scoring with 23 points and Breanna Stewert had 18. In her final WNBA game in New York, Bird added 11 points.
The noon start time brought 6,859 fans to Barclays Center on Sunday, a number of them there to see the hometown Bird play.
“When anyone thinks about the WNBA they think about Sue Bird and what’s she’s meant to the sport,” Ionescu said. “She’s transcended it. What she’s meant to absolutely everyone outside of the sport is something that you really cannot put into words. So (it was) really cool to see how many people were here tonight in support of her–her career–and what she’s done.”
Sunday also marked just the second game that DiDi Richards has played in for New York since she returned from a right hamstring injury. Richards had one point and four rebounds in 13 minutes of work off the bench.
The Liberty have turned their season around quite a bit after losing seven straight games after winning their home opener, and even Sunday’s loss showed the better effort that New York has had of late. Despite falling behind quickly in the first quarter, Ionescu and Johannes each hit threes to cut the Seattle lead to three with 6:17 left in the first quarter.
A 25-foot three-pointer from Ionescu with 8.4 left in the opening quarter again pulled the Liberty back within three.
The Liberty continued to nip at the heels of the Storm into the second quarter when the budding New York star made a driving layup to cut the deficit to just one and a Johannes layup a minute later put them up 35-34. The lead was short-lived as the Storm answered right back with a bit three-point play from Gabby Williams to give Seattle back the lead with 2:02 left in the first half.
New York again called upon its three-point shooting in the third quarter to close the gap. Three-pointers from Whitcomb and Johannes, mixed with a free throw from Richards, helped the Liberty take 50-49 lead with four minutes left in the third.
Whitcomb extended that lead to three, but Williams quickly answered back with a bucket on Seattle’s next possession. The Storm closed out the final 1:18 of the game on a 6-0 run to take a 55-52 lead into the fourth quarter.
Stefanie Dolson managed to tie the game at 59 with 8:02 left in the game’s final quarter and a Han Xu put New York back in the lead. However, similar to the previous Liberty leads, the Storm quickly responded and found themselves back in the lead.
With just over four minutes to play, Bird hit a big three to put the Storm ahead by four and then later in the game, she knocked down another three to make it a nine-point game.
The Liberty will hit the road for a short two-game road trip that will take them to Connecticut on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday.