The Dallas Wings are going back to the WNBA playoffs for the second consecutive season. They became the sixth team to clinch a spot this season when they beat the New York Liberty, 86-77, on Monday night despite a season-high 32 points by Sabrina Ionescu. With this win, the Wings extended their winning streak to a season-high five games.
“[It means] everything,” Wings head coach Vickie Johnson said. “I’m so happy for the young ladies. They came out, they were focused, they believed. It’s part of our DNA now, making the playoffs. We belong.”
Playing without Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally yet again, the Wings needed someone else to step up. For the past few weeks it’s been Teaira McCowan, and while she had another strong game with 16 points and nine rebounds, the hero against the Liberty was Marina Mabrey. She picked a perfect time to have the best game of her season and career, as she poured in a career-high 31 points on 11 of 18 from the field, and added four rebounds and four assists.
After the Liberty had come all the way back from a 15-point deficit to take the lead late in the third quarter, Mabrey took over and put the Wings on her back. Starting with a 3-pointer to end the third quarter, she scored 16 of the Wings’ 21 points over a seven minute span as they rebuilt a double-digit lead and pulled away. The Liberty simply had no answers, as Mabrey scored every which way in the fourth quarter, even when she was closely contested.
Thanks to Mabrey’s heroics, the Wings improved to 17-16 and are back above .500 for the first time since June 9 when they were 6-5. In addition to clinching a playoff spot, they are close to locking in their seed. With just one more win from their three remaining games, or some help from the teams below them, they will secure the No. 6 seed.
As for the Liberty, this was a big blow to their chances but they are still in the hunt. Now in 10th place at at 13-20, New York is a game behind both the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury, who hold the final two playoff spots in seventh and eighth place, respectively. With two games against the Dream left on their schedule, the Liberty have a chance.