Liberty forward Natasha Howard (6) reacts after scoring against the...

Liberty forward Natasha Howard (6) reacts after scoring against the Washington Mystics during the second half at the Barclays Center in New York on Friday, September 17, 2021. The liberty won 91-80. Credit: Noah K. Murray

Sitting in their apartments in Brooklyn, many of the New York Liberty players gathered to watch the final day of play in the WNBA regular season. They needed a lot of help Sunday to reach the postseason for the first time since 2017.

They got it, taking the final playoff spot by virtue of losses by Washington and Los Angeles.

"Today is a great day not only for this team, but the fans who have been with us through thick and thin," Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb said. "The experience that will be gained from this playoff run will be extremely valuable going forward as we continue to build here in New York."

The Liberty earned the eighth seed and will play at Phoenix on Thursday in the opening round. Chicago will host Dallas in the other game that night.

"I can't emphasize enough how proud I am of these players who continually lay it all on the line day in and day out," Kolb said. "This is a team of belief and we can't wait to get started."

Coming into the weekend, Washington had the best chance to reach the postseason despite having so many players missing games this season with injuries. The Mystics lost at New York on Friday and then to Minnesota on Sunday.

"I think there were definitely missed opportunities," said associate head coach Eric Thibault, who filled in for his father, Mike, who missed the last two games because of COVID-19 protocols, "We had, at one point in the season, leads at halftime in well over half of our games. But you need a certain level of talent to close games like that when it gets tight, especially when you're playing good teams. And, obviously, we had a lot of talent taken out of our team through circumstances and bad luck and injuries and all the rest."

With Minnesota's win over Washington, the Lynx took the third seed and will play the worst remaining seed in the second round on Sunday. The Seattle Storm have the four seed and will play the other first-round winner at home.

The Connecticut Sun have the league's best record and have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. They earned a bye until the semifinals. Las Vegas also earned a double bye.


Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access