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Liberty's Walt Hopkins upset with refs as team fails to stop Mercury's Sophie Cunningham in playoff loss

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New York Liberty coach Walt Hopkins took issue with how the single-elimination playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury turned out on Thursday night.

The Liberty lost 83-82, as the referee made calls favoring the Mercury in the final second. Hopkins said he didn’t think the calls were necessarily wrong, but he felt his team was getting a lot of the calls on them because of how young they are.

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“There are a lot of things I want to say about the officiating in the WNBA and about the lack of respect this team’s gotten all season,” Hopkins said, according to ESPN. “But I can’t say that, because referees are above reproach. They don’t have to go to a press conference after games. They don’t have to explain the mistakes they made, why they did what they do. I don’t know where the accountability’s gonna come from, but it needs to happen. It was a bad season. The way they treated us was bad.”

Hopkins also pointed to the free-throw discrepancy even as the team outscored the Mercury in the paint.

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham (9) reacts after scoring during the second half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs against the Phoenix Mercury, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 83-82.

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham (9) reacts after scoring during the second half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs against the Phoenix Mercury, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 83-82.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

“It’s because we don’t get respect, because we’re a young team,” Hopkins added.

CUNNINGHAM, TURNER LEAD MERCURY TO 83-82 WIN OVER LIBERTY

Hopkins might be right, to a point. There was a stretch in the third quarter where the Liberty was called for four consecutive fouls and then three consecutive later in the frame.

Regardless, the team had a tough time stopping Mercury sharpshooter Sophie Cunningham. She was 6-for-7 from three-point range and scored 21 points off the bench for Phoenix. 

“The energy just wasn’t there until the second half,” Cunningham said, according to the Arizona Republic. “You either win or you go home. Honestly, my biggest thing was bring the energy, get the ball to Sky and BG (Brittney Griner) when they need it. But then I just kind of said screw it, I’m open, I’m shooting the ball and I was lucky enough mine were going in tonight.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix with 221 points on 8-of-18 from the floor.

Brianna Turner nailed the game-deciding free throw with 0.4 seconds left.

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Phoenix now has a second-round matchup against the Seattle Storm.

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