WNBA Playoffs 2023: 3 keys to New York Liberty and Washington Mystics matchup

The Washington Mystics are the underdogs in this first-round match-up against the New York Liberty but they definitely still have a chance. Here's what could decide the series.
Washington Mystics v New York Liberty
Washington Mystics v New York Liberty / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The first round of the WNBA Playoffs is about to kick off and the first-round matchup between the (2) New York Liberty versus the (7) Washington Mystics could be a doozy.

Washington entered the 2023 season as an early darkhorse pick by many to make a deep postseason run. However, the injury bug impacted their season with Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins, and Shakira Austin in and out of the lineup. Not to mention, the team lost Kristi Toliver for the remainder of the year after tearing her ACL. Despite the injuries impacting the team, Washington has a chance to challenge the Liberty.

The Mystics ended the regular season with a last-second win against the Liberty.

New York has only lost three games on the road and five games at home (the Barclays Arena). The Liberty have been fortunate to avoid any major team injuries and Jonquel Jones returned at the right time (foot injury).

Regardless of the postseason seedings, this series can go either way, and here are three key reasons to consider.

Keys to Liberty vs. Mystics: 3. Battle of the frontcourts

The first key to this series is the battle of the front courts. As of now, Shakira Austin's status for Friday's game is up in the air after she re-aggravated her hip injury.

New York's frontcourt will feature Breanna Stewart, Betnijah Laney, Jonquel Jones, Stefanie Dolson, and Kayla Thornton. On the other hand, the Mystics front court would consist of Delle Donne, Austin (if healthy) Tianna Hawkins, Myisha Hines-Allen, and Queen Egbo.

Both teams attack the glass hard and will need to get after it come tip off. New York is averaging 37.9 rebounds per game compared to Washington's 32.3.

Washington matches up with New York due to their ability to throw multiple post defenders at Jones, and Stewart. The Mystics will also be able to switch up their style of play whether it's finesse or physical.

The team that is able to secure the ball off the glass and create second-chance points will have an edge to win the series.

Keys to Liberty vs. Mystics: 2. Ball security

The second key reason to watch out for is ball security. Both teams love to push the pace and score before the opposing team can set their defense.

The Liberty and Mystics have outstanding backcourts that can create space, run the offense, and push the tempo. Although both teams can light up the scoreboard in spurts, it will be important for both teams to limit their turnovers.

New York finished the regular season averaging 13.5 turnovers per game compared to Washington's 12.2. The team that turns the ball over more will have a hard time winning this series.

Keys to Liberty vs. Mystics: 1. Not falling in love with the 3-pointer

The last key reason that can determine this series would be the team that avoids falling in love with 3-point attempts. At this moment, the Liberty is shooting a solid 37.4 percent from 3 while the Mystics are shooting a low 33.6 percent.

Even though Washington is shooting a lower percentage, they are able to score in multiple ways. They also only attempt 23.1 3s per game compared to New York's 29.7.

Sabrina Ionescu attempts 7.9 3-pointers per game and is shooting a scorching 44.8 percent. But what happens when Natasha Cloud or Atkins chases her off the line? Stewart is attempting 5.8 3s per game and is cashing in a 35.5 percent average.

Both Ionescu and Stewart tend to fall in love with the 3. Washington can capitalize in this area if they are able to run the Liberty off the line and force turnovers. If the Mystics find a way to slow down the deep ball from the Liberty, they will still need to knock down the 3-point attempts that they take.

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