The Liberty’s first home playoff win since 2015 was just preamble — they’re hoping an encore Tuesday over the Mystics will be the payoff.
A victory would clinch their first-round best-of-three series, and ensure they can rest rather than sweat out a do-or-die Game 3 in Washington.
And they’re leaning into finishing off their rival, taking a there-is-no-tomorrow approach.
“Most definitely. We have an opportunity to do it here at home in front of our fans,” Jonquel Jones said. “Not to look too far ahead, but to be able to stay here and get ready for the next round, to not go into a hostile environment in D.C. because they have great fans as well. So our job is to be able to go out there and close it out and get the job done.”
Jones had 20 points and a dozen boards in Friday’s 90-75 Game 1 win. That — and a game-high 29 from Sabrina Ionescu — led to a comfortable victory despite a rare off shooting night from star Breanna Stewart.
“It matters a lot,” Stewart said. “Obviously knowing we have home-court advantage for a reason and really taking care of the business on Tuesday at home and knowing that this schedule is more spread out than really the regular season but taking advantage of that time. But I think we’re not looking any further than Tuesday.”
Stewart, an MVP candidate, had just 10 points on 3 of 16 shooting.
But having a former MVP like Jones, two-time WNBA All-Star Ionescu or an impressive litany of others makes the Liberty a legitimate threat for their first title.
“We have trust in each other,” Jones said. “We have [faith in] everybody’s abilities that it can be the next man up. It’s not just one person. Stewie has been huge for us for the entirety of the season and we want to be there for her, too. That’s what it was [in Game 1], and we know that she’ll be back stronger for the next game.”
Stewart faced not just traps but constant switching, which made Washington vulnerable on the glass.
She and the Liberty feasted on the boards, and she had the best plus-minus in Game 1, but she’ll have to shoot better Tuesday.
“It’s amazing that if you look at this team, we have so much talent and really everybody can step up at any moment,” Stewart said. “But the way we continue to rely on one another and trust, that [is great]. We know we have a long ways to go, especially in this series and making sure we do whatever we can to get the win.”
After trailing 29-23 early in the second quarter Friday, the Liberty’s in-game adjustments paid off.
Jones’ screens against Washington’s drop coverage gave Ionescu room to hit a franchise playoff-record seven 3s.
And she moved to guard Elena Delle Donne in the second half, Jones’ length helping to hold the two-time MVP to just three points after the break.
“That was something we talked about, just throwing different matchups at EDD and just being ready for that and understanding what we’re doing,” Jones said. “It was just good for us to make them think a little bit more.”
It’ll give the Mystics something to think about Tuesday.
The Liberty can close out the series in front of their home crowd, one that included tennis icon Billie Jean King, singer H.E.R, Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Nets star Mikal Bridges.
“It just is a testament to this team and how we’re an attraction and bring people in to show the world that we are New York basketball and we are those strong women that are going to come out and compete and try and bring a championship to New York City,” Ionescu said. “So super thankful for all the fans that showed up and hopefully continue to show up throughout the series.”