WNBA Finals: New York Liberty Avoid Sweep in Game 3 Victory

Posted on: October 16, 2023, 08:48h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2023, 12:29h.

Forward Jonquel Jones led the New York Liberty to a must-win 87-73 victory against the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. The Liberty avoided a sweep after falling behind 2-0 against the defending champion Aces in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.

Jonquel Jones NY Liberty WNBA Finals
New York Liberty forward Jonquel Jones attempts an uncontested shot in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Image: Getty)

The 2023 WNBA Finals features an elite battle of two superteams, with the Aces attempting to win consecutive titles. The Liberty are the WNBA’s only original franchise that has yet to win a title, and they’re seeking their first championship. They made four trips to the WNBA Finals between 1997 and 2002, but fell short of their pursuit of the elusive championship.

The Aces won the first two games of the WNBA Finals on their home court in Las Vegas, where they were undefeated in the postseason. The Aces won Game 1 by 17 points last weekend and throttled the Liberty by 28 points in Game 2 on Wednesday night in Sin City.

The WNBA Finals shifted locations and the Liberty hosted the Aces at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. Fans came out in droves and Game 3 was a sellout, setting an attendance record for a WNBA Finals game at 17,143.

Inspired by the fervent support of their fan base, the Liberty looked like a different team and held off the Aces to win their first game of the series.

The Liberty avoided a sweep and staved off elimination. They also trimmed the Aces’ series lead to 2-1. They host Game 4 in Brooklyn on Wednesday for a chance to even the series. The Aces need one more victory to clinch the championship.

Jones Guides Liberty in Must-Win Game 3

The Liberty shot 52.4% from their home floor in Brooklyn, including 43% from 3-point range. They played with an invigorated defensive effort and held the Aces to 33.3% overall shooting, including 31.8% from 3-point range.

We had a fight, we got back to our identity,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. “We’re a way better team than what we’ve showed the last two games. I’m just proud of the effort and the commitment and the connection that we had, but now we’ve got to do it again.”

Jones dropped a team-best 27 points on an efficient 10-for-15 from the floor. She stuffed the stat sheet and added eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and two steals in the clutch win.

“That’s the level I’m gonna have to play, and keep it at,” Jones told The Athletic. “I felt great out there tonight.”

“JJ’s a superstar,” added Brondello. “She’s amazing. She’s very humble. We wouldn’t be here without JJ.”

Forward Breanna Stewart added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Liberty. Stewart, the WNBA MVP, bounced back after struggling with only 14 points in a loss in Game 2.

Shooting guard Sabrina Ionescu shrugged off two poor performances in Las Vegas and knocked down three treys while dishing a game-high 11 assists.

The unselfish Liberty shared the ball in Game 3 and compiled 28 assists. The Aces combined for 13 total assists, and only two more than Ionescu.

Cracked Aces; Gray Injured in Loss

The Aces lost their first game of the postseason with a subpar performance in Game 3. They trailed 43-40 at halftime, but they had a terrible third quarter and never recovered. The Liberty held the Aces to only 10 points in the third frame, and led by 11 points heading into the final quarter.

“They played harder,” said Aces head coach Becky Hammon. “I felt like we were on our heels from the jump.”

The hot-shooting Aces cooled down in Game 3. Their perimeter defense shut down the Liberty in the first two games, but the roles were reversed in Game 3.

The Liberty continued to pack the paint and double-teamed forward A’ja Wilson whenever they had the opportunity. Wilson shot 4-for-16 from the floor and scored only 16 points.

Point guard Kelsey Plum led the Aces with a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers.

The Liberty neutralized guard Jackie Young, the Aces’ top two-way player, who had a monstrous performance in Game 1. Young scored just eight points in the loss, and she shot 2-for-9 from the floor.

Last year’s WNBA Finals MVP, Chelsea Gray, also struggled with just 11 points prior to her foot injury. Gray exited in the second half and never returned.

Gray’s status for Game 4 is unknown. The Aces were already short-handed entering the postseason, when forward Candace Parker fractured her foot.

The Liberty dominated the Aces in transition by outscoring them 12-2 on the fast break.

Liberty/Aces Game 4 Betting Preview

The Liberty are -2.5 favorites heading into Game 4. The points total is 170 over/under.

The Aces have yet to win a game in Gotham this season. They were 0-2 in the regular season and are now 0-3 after Sunday’s loss.

The Aces are still the outright betting favorite to win the WNBA championship at -500 odds. Despite a setback in Game 3, the Aces are only one victory away from winning back-to-back NBA championships. The Los Angeles Sparks were the last team to win the NBA title in consecutive seasons, which last happened over two decades ago.

The Liberty are +350 odds to pull off a historic comeback and win the championship. They’ll have to win three games in a row to secure a championship. No team that ever fell behind 2-0 in the WNBA Finals, let alone any postseason series, and managed to rally back and win.

If the Liberty win Game 4 and force a Game 5, the final game of the series will take place in Las Vegas next Sunday.