The New York Liberty are off to a hot start and have already surpassed what they did in 2020 by a good margin. We’re far from the end of the campaign, but with every passing win, the likelihood of the Liberty returning to the playoffs increases. It’s been a minute since this team saw the postseason, though. When was the last time the Liberty made the WNBA Playoffs?
When Did the Liberty Last Make the WNBA Playoffs?
The New York Liberty last made the WNBA Playoffs four years ago in 2017, the franchise’s third-straight appearance in the postseason. It was also the last time the team finished the regular season with an above-.500 record. They aimed at achieving a most satisfying postseason than in 2016 when the Liberty finished atop the Eastern Conference standings in the regular season but promptly exited the playoffs with a second-round defeat to the below-.500 Phoenix Mercury.
Tina Charles was the team’s top scorer in 2017, averaging 19.7 points per game and adding in 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per outing to boot. Epiphanny Prince (12.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists per game), Shavonte Zellous (11.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game), Sugar Rodgers (10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game), and Bria Hartley (7.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game) were the Liberty’s other major contributors in head coach Bill Laimbeer’s fifth season at the helm.
The Liberty tipped off 2017 with a 73-64 home victory over the San Antonio Stars behind a balanced scoring attack that featured five double-digit scorers. It took New York a little longer into the season before it found its footing, but the team starting June hot, winning its first four contests in the month to build a 6-3 record in the early days of the campaign.
That’s when things got rocky. The Liberty proceeded to lose six of their next eight matchups, including two failures against the Connecticut Sun in the span of 10 days. After a 78-68 home loss to the Chicago Sky on July 14, the Liberty were 8-9.
That would mark one of the last Ls of the regular season for New York. The Liberty won four of their next five, dropped a couple, and then ripped through a 10-game winning streak to close out the remainder of its schedule, going undefeated for 27 days, concluding the magical run with an 82-81 road victory at the Dallas Wings that required a last-second defensive stand to sustain after a bad over-and-back mistake. The final 22 seconds of the game were nuts.
With the escape in Dallas, the Liberty were 22-12 on the season, good enough for the top spot in the Eastern Conference yet again. one game better than the Sun. But New York was the No. 3 seed in the postseason, finishing a good deal behind the No. 1 seed Minnesota Lynx (27-7) and No. 2 seed Los Angeles Sparks (26-8). The Liberty had a bye to the single-elimination Second Round of the 2017 WNBA Playoffs.
Liberty Last WNBA Playoffs Appearance
Second Round – Washington Mystics
After the No. 6 seed Washington Mystics defeated the No. 7 seeded Wings in the First Round, 87-76, they booked their place in the Second Round against the Liberty in New York. It was the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. New York was 2-1 against Washington during the regular season, with the Mystics winning the first game on June 29, 67-54, before the Liberty responded twice in a row on July 16 (85-55) and Aug. 25 (74-66).
The Liberty got the best of the Mystics to start the contest, jumping out to a 21-10 lead by the end of the first quarter behind eight points from Tina Charles. In the second quarter, Washington slowly chipped away at the lead, but New York held the road team at bay just enough, still maintaining a 41-35 advantage at the break.
The third quarter went about as poorly for the Liberty as feasibly possible. The Mystics went on a 17-0 run through the middle of the period, including a stretch of four-straight triples, three courtesy of Kristi Toliver, that completely altered the trajectory of the game. The Liberty regained some composure and got back onto the board via a Charles six-foot hook shot with about three minutes left in the quarter to end a more than five-minute scoring drought. The teams traded baskets until the horn sounded, and Washington took a favorable 60-51 scoreline into the fourth.
The Liberty couldn’t solve the issues that plagued them in the previous quarter, and the fourth became as brutal as the third for the home team. Both sides opened the final period cold, but once it started to rain, it poured for the ‘Stics. Washington connected on seven-straight shot attempts from the floor in the middle of the quarter, and it buried New York. By the time Krystal Thomas made a layup with a bit more than five minutes to play, the Liberty found itself down 76-56 and completely out of the game.
Washington scored just six more points the rest of the night, but the damage was done. At the final whistle, the Mystics had the 82-68 triumph, and the Liberty once again had to cope with a disappointing playoff appearance.