Only one thing matters now.
Not the Liberty’s 32-8 regular-season record and No. 2-overall seeded nor its Commissioner’s Cup title over the Aces, the WNBA’s other super team looming on the other side of the playoff bracket.
All of that was a warm-up act.
For a team that has made its intentions and expectations for itself explicitly clear from the moment it was prominently assembled, only a championship will suffice as an acceptable end result.
Now, the Liberty’s real season begins.
The team tips off its playoff run against the seventh-seeded Mystics on Friday night at Barclays Center in their best-of-three first-round series.
“Our goals are all the same, and we’re all united in that aspect of wanting to win a championship,” star guard Sabrina Ionescu said after practice on Wednesday. “Knowing that we’re so close to that, we’ve been talking about that since the preseason, and now to be able to be in the playoffs and understanding we’re right there.
“We’ve got to continue to commit and sacrifice, and it’s gonna be a grind, but I have trust in this team that we’re gonna be able to accomplish our goals.”
The Mystics notably beat the Liberty in the final regular-season game.
But the Liberty were otherwise red-hot down the stretch, closing the campaign on 13-2 run and appearing to be playing their best basketball of the year.
It could be hard to not already start looking beyond the Mystics.
This season has long been pegged as a two-horse race between the Liberty and Aces, who are the reigning champions and No. 1 seed.
Both sides loaded up last offseason with unprecedented levels of talent, finished the regular season in the top two by a wide margin and met in the Commissioner’s Cup final.
For the Liberty, that new talent is comprised of Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot among others.
Combined with Ionescu, the team’s only top-overall pick, the core was brought together with only one vision: the franchise’s first WNBA championship.
As long as the Liberty and Aces both take care of business in the first two rounds, they’ll face off in what would be a historic finals.
But there’s ample work to be done to get there.
The Liberty were just 2-2 against the Mystics in the regular season, and one of their wins came in overtime.
Washington’s trio of aggressive, ball-hawking guards provided a particular problem in the finale.
Brittney Sykes scored 20 and nabbed two steals, Ariel Atkins scored 11 with four steals and Natasha Cloud scored 17 points in that game.
That could be a blueprint the Mystics will look to use again in order to pull off what would be a stunning upset.
“What we’re thinking is we wanna win a championship. We know that this is the first roadblock in our way,” said Stewart, who won the AP Player of the Year award on Tuesday. “And making sure all our energy and our focus is on that, on ourselves, on how we can continue to be better, but what we need to do to take them out of their game plan. And then you continue on, you continue on. But the goal is the championship.
“You think about, ‘Wow, we have an opportunity to do something amazing.’ And at the same time, to be the first. Because there’s never another first.”
A common phrase could be heard — ”bigger than us.”
They recognize their importance to the WNBA’s growth and how much intrigue two superteams going all out for a championship adds around the league.
They’re also aware that this city has been starved for basketball championships.
“They know what’s at stake,” head coach Sandy Brondello said. “I want them to embrace the pressure, not feel it’s too much. Some of them have been in this situation; some of them haven’t. We just have to go out there and play Liberty basketball.”
Some in this star-studded roster, like Stewart, Vandersloot and Jones, have been part of deep playoff runs with other teams.
Others, like Ionescu, were part of a Liberty core that lost in the first round the past two seasons.
So far, everything has gone to plan.
But now is when it all counts.
“I’m excited about the playoffs, when there’s some pressure, you’ve got to go out there and be your best,” Ionescu said. “There’s no one else I’d rather do it with than this team.”
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