Jonquel Jones, Liberty survive to reach 7th straight victory as Mystics stay winless

The New York Liberty‘s recent challenging stretch of the season concluded with Sunday’s final Commissioner’s Cup matchup against the Washington Mystics.

They played six games in 10 days. And they stayed undefeated during that stretch after gutting out a 93-88 win over the Washington Mystics. The winless Mystics fought till the end but faltered in the fourth quarter, a frequent theme through the first 12 games of the season.

This time, Eric Thibault’s team ran into a torrid Jonquel Jones, who poured in a season-high 29 points while grabbing eight boards and blocking two shots. She shot 11-for-15 on the night, including 4-of-5 shooting in the fourth en route to Washington’s 12th loss of the season.

It’s the most points she’s scored since arriving in New York in 2023. And the 2021 MVP looks like she’s in the best shape since putting on seafoam colors.

“Well I’m in better shape obviously,” said Jones, who began the 2022 season after rehabbing a foot injury sustained as a member of the Connecticut Sun.

“Everything was new last year. So it was just figuring things out and figuring my teammates out. Now it’s less of that and way more chemistry.”

Her performance was enough to stave off a hungry Mystics team that managed to get within one point after Mystics guard Jade Melbourne, who scored a team-high 21 points, made a layup with 19.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Sabrina Ionescu was trapped after the ensuing inbounds, but she whipped a pass to Betnijah Laney-Hamilton near midcourt. The guard then found an open player in the paint with no one in sight.

And of course, Jones was there to lay in the final dagger with eight seconds remaining.

The win gives the Liberty an 11-2 record and 5-0 record in Commissioner’s Cup standings. After not dropping a game during a brutal stretch, the team will now have home-court advantage for the Commissioner’s Cup championship game on June 25.

“We understood that regardless of the situation we’re in, we can use every game, every opportunity to get better and be ready so that in the playoffs we’ll be able to say we’ve been tested in various situations,” Jones said.

Sunday was Washington’s third game in four days while the Liberty returned home for the back end of a back-to-back. The early sloppiness showed in the first quarter with New York (five) and Washington (three) combining for eight turnovers.

Ionescu and Jones combined to shoot 6-for-7 in the first, which was enough to give the Liberty a one point lead going into the second.

Then Jones continued to pick up where she left off in Saturday’s win against the Connecticut Sun. Jones decimated her former team down the stretch Saturday then totaled nine quick points going into the second quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

After Melboune blew by Laney-Hamilton, Jones dashed across the paint to swat what should’ve been an easy layup attempt. The star center then ran the floor and drew a shooting foul on the other end.

The highlight plays continued with Jones dishing a behind-the-back pass to Leonie Fiebich that led to a made three. And on the next possession, Ionescu displayed some flashy dribble moves and tossed a no-look pass to Jones for an easy layup that put the Libs four with 3:33 minutes remaining in the second.

The flashy plays, however, didn’t amount to bonus points in the box score as the two teams entered halftime tied at 45. The home team entered halftime with 11 turnovers, which led to nine Washington points. The Mystic gave up the same amount on nine turnovers at that point. The Liberty eventually turned the ball over 21 times, nine more than the Mystics.

Washington took the lead in the third after Julie Vanloo‘s trey. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough then followed up with her own trey to put her team up five with 6:11 remaining in the third. Six quick Liberty points regained the lead but Ariel Atkins drained a wide-open trey to put the Mystics up two at the 4:22 mark.

The two teams continued to trade buckets to end the quarter and Atkins’ three-pointer at the buzzer would’ve put her team up one entering the fourth. But officials negated the bucket after review, deeming the guard didn’t get the ball off before the clock hit zero.

Even in the end when the Liberty looked like they couldn’t close, the Mystics failed to get the big stop in the fourth. Washington led by five with over eight minutes remaining in regulation but never regained the lead down the stretch.

After avoiding Sunday’s trap game, the Liberty won’t have to suit up until next Saturday when the face the defending champions Las Vegas Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena. The last time the two teams met, the Aces celebrated in Brooklyn after getting a WNBA title-clinching Game 4 win in October.