Breanna Stewart, Liberty’s three-point shooting gets back on track in loss to Mercury

Finally, the New York Liberty looked like the three-point shooting machine that dominated the 2023 regular-season.

Breanna Stewart, who entered Tuesday night’s matchup against the Phoenix Mercury shooting 17.5% from deep, made all four of her three-pointers while the team tied a single-game record for most made threes (18).

And they came so close to shattering the record.

With her team down three with 5:57 minutes remaining in regulation, Kayla Thornton drained a trey while Phoenix’s Sug Sutton knocked her to the ground. Officials questionably deemed the play an offensive foul on Thornton, which erased the bucket and an opportunity to put the Liberty up one.

Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello was out of challenges and the team had no choice but to play on. The Liberty never tied or regained the lead afterwards and eventually fell, 99-93.

Brondello said postgame that officials didn’t give an explanation on the questionable call.

“We looked back at it but I had used my challenge earlier,” Brondello said after the team’s eight-game winning streak ended Tuesday night. “Kind of bummed I did that now. Because everyone kept telling me that could’ve been a four-point play.

“Really no explanation at all. Hopefully I’ll get one at some stage.”

What Brondello did get, though, is one of the best three-point shooting performances from her team all season. They shot 18-of-42 from deep (42.9%). They’ve only shot a better percentage from deep against the Fever on May 18 (46.9%) and June 2 (44.0%), and the Washington Mystics on June 9 (44.4%).

But in none of those games did the Liberty notch as many three-pointers as they did Tuesday. And Stewart’s sharpshooting is a good sign for Brondello, who continuously stressed weeks ago that the 2023 MVP will eventually knock down treys at a better clip.

“I think I was just continuing to be confident, be aggressive,” said Stewart, whose three-point percentage rose to 23% after Tuesday’s loss. The five-time All-Star shot 35.5% from deep last season and averages 35.8% for her career.

“I know I’m a great shooter,” added Stewart, who finished with a game high 28 points. “So I think that the shots that didn’t fall earlier in the season… eventually they’re [going to].

Sabrina Ionescu (19 points) and Thornton (12 points) joined in on the three-point barrage, too. Both totaled four treys apiece. Jonquel Jones made three three-pointers, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton made a pair and Ivana Dojkic added one more off the bench.

Phoenix weathered the Liberty’s storm with 15 made treys of their own. The two teams combined to make 33 total, the most in a game in WNBA history.

Former Liberty wing Rebecca Allen led Phoenix with five made treys. Future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi made four three-pointers. Guard Sophie Cunningham made three while Natasha Cloud, Kahleah Copper and Sutton made one each.

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