Liberty look to build on season-opening win
Ionescu gives New York momentum heading to Chicago
Sabrina Ionescu knows its just one win, but the New York Liberty star and her teammates will certainly take it.
Especially if they can build on their season-opening victory Wednesday night in Chicago.
Ionescu scored 25 points, handed out six assists, blocked a pair of shots and made all the clutch plays down the stretch Saturday night, lifting the Liberty to an 81-79 victory over the visiting Connecticut Sun in front of 6,829 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“It’s a great win for us at home,” said Ionescu, who spent her first two seasons dealing with an ankle injury before reporting she was back at full health entering this campaign.
“We had a great crowd,’ she added. ‘Super excited to be able to start the season off like that.”
And even more excited to carry that momentum into the Windy City, where the Liberty (1-0) will take on the Sky (0-1), who are eager to bounce back from an overtime loss to defending WNBA champion Los Angeles in their season opener last Friday.
New York almost suffered a gut-wrenching loss of its own vs. Connecticut, but Ionescu wasn’t having it.
The former two-time Wooden Award winner as the best collegiate player in the nation hit a 3-pointer and driving layup to erase a two-point deficit, giving the Liberty the lead for good, 76-73, with 2:31 left in regulation.
Natasha Howard scored 16 points, Sami Whitcomb added 15 and Jocelyn Willoughby had 13 for New York, which was without injured All-Star Betnijah Laney, DiDi Richards and Rebecca Allen.
Despite being short-staffed, the Liberty held on to make a winner of Sandy Brondello in her Brooklyn head coaching debut.
“We weren’t quite sure what we would get on the offensive end. I knew what we’d get on the defensive end. I think this team is tough, and I think you see the style of play that we wanted to play,” she said.
“We competed with one of the best teams in the WNBA. We’re both missing players, obviously, we had to dig deep.”
Alyssa Thomas had 25 points and reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones added 15 for the Sun, who did their best to spoil Brondello’s debut before Ionescu took over.
“For me, it’s always nice to win your first game, and the fans can get to see what we’re trying to do here… a bit of relief, I suppose,” Brondello noted.
With Ionescu feeling the way she did when she entered the league as the first overall pick in 2020, the Liberty have to be heartened that last season’s desperation playoff push wasn’t in vain.
Now, New York can pursue its first-ever title without worrying about the health of a point guard who was expected to transform the franchise and the league.
“A breath of fresh air to be able to play and not thinking about my ankle and figuring out ways to try and hide it or figure out different ways to try and help the team when I’m not able to do what I want to physically,” Ionescu said.
“I am super excited about the progress that I’ve made and just being able to play in a game like that at that intensity and do what I needed to do to help us win.”
In other local pro hoops news, the Nets announced Monday that veteran shooting guard Seth Curry underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, according to a team-issued release.
The procedure, performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery, shouldn’t keep Curry from joining his teammates for training camp ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
Curry, who arrived in our borough from Philadelphia in the February trade-deadline deal for James Harden, averaged 14.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 29.9 minutes per game.
He shot 49.3 percent from the field, 46.8 percent from 3-point range and 85.7 percent from the line.
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