Jones, Liberty earn second seed

They will host the Mystics in the first round of the playoffs on Friday

Bahamian professional women’s basketball player Jonquel ‘JJ’ Jones and the New York Liberty set a new franchise record for wins this year, finishing with 32, but at the end of the day, they still finished as the second seed in the race for the best record in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) this season, and will play the Washington Mystics in the first round of the playoffs that gets underway this week.

The Liberty will host the Washington Mystics in the first round of the playoffs, and the Mystics made sure of that with a dramatic win in the regular season finale on Sunday.

Brittney Sykes scored on a lob pass at the buzzer to lift the Mystics to a 90-88 victory over the Liberty at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday, closing out the regular season.

Sykes, who finished with 20 points, caught an inbounds pass from Natasha Cloud with just 0.5 seconds remaining, and tossed it up. It went through the nets as the buzzer sounded, ending the Liberty’s eight-game winning streak. It also set up the first round series between the Liberty and Mystics, starting Friday night in Brooklyn. The first two games of the mini best-of-three series will be played in Brooklyn, and if necessary, the third and final game will be played in Washington.

If anything, the Mystics proved they could beat the Liberty on their home floor. They lost by one point, 89-88, in overtime to the Liberty in late June.

The Liberty finished with a 32-8 win/loss record in the league’s first 40-game season. The Mystics finished in a three-way tie for fifth with a 19-21 record, but will occupy the seventh seed based on the tiebreaking procedures. Despite being a huge underdog, Cloud said they will come ready to play.

“… we want to send a message – ‘you’re going to have to see us all series long,’” she said. “‘You have to go through a really good team still – a team that’s hungry, a team full of dogs.’ … Let it be known this is going to be a really good series.”

Prior to Sunday’s dramatic loss, the Liberty had won eight straight and 14 of their last 15 games.

As for Jones, she had 19 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes of work on Sunday. She shot 8-for-13 from the field and was 1-for-3 from deep. The Liberty were led by Sabrina Ionescu with 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Betnijah Laney, who signed a contract extension with the Liberty through the 2025 season on Saturday, finished with 13 points. Marine Johannès was the only other player in double figures for them with 11.

Behind Sykes’ 20 points, Cloud had 17, six rebounds and five assists for the Mystics. Two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins finished with 11 apiece.

The Liberty led by eight points early, and the Mystics by 12 late before the game got close down the stretch. Sykes’ buzzer beating shot prevented overtime and gave them the seventh seed going into the playoffs.

For the season, Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP, finished at 11.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor.

Jones is vying for her first team title in the WNBA and this may be her best chance to do it. The Liberty won the league’s Commissioner’s Cup this season – an in-season tournament, pitting the best regular season teams up against each other. Jones was the MVP of that game as they defeated the pennant-winning defending champs Las Vegas Aces, 82-63.

That game aside, Jones and the Liberty split four games with the Aces this season, and the two teams are favored to meet for the WNBA Championship in October. The Aces finished at 34-8, compiling the most wins in the regular season in WNBA history. They will host the eighth seeded Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs, starting Wednesday.

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