Ionescu, Liberty headed in right direction
Point guard leads New York past Minnesota at Barclays
Sabrina Ionescu is suddenly on a roll.
And so, finally, are the New York Liberty.
Ionescu had 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists Tuesday night, leading the Liberty to their third victory in four games, an 88-69 triumph over the Minnesota Lynx before a crowd of 3,196 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“If I can be a threat offensively it opens up the floor for everyone else,” said Ionescu, who could have recorded her WNBA record-tying second career triple-double if she didn’t sit out the entire fourth quarter.
“I watched film and figured ways to attack the pick-and-roll. I’m seeing a lot of defenses and am trying to get everyone involved.”
The Liberty (4-8) have to be heartened by Ionescu’s re-emergence.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft missed most of her first season with an ankle injury and was slowed by the same ailment for most of last year.
Now fully healthy for the first time since the first two games of her professional career, the University of Oregon standout has put up at least 20 points in each of her last four games.
“Some of the shots she made they were Diana Taurasi-like,” New York head coach Sandy Brondello said after Ionescu drained 10-of-11 shots, including all four 3-pointers she attempted.
“She has all the ability in the world and we have chemistry with each other,” added Brondello, whose team has soared back into contention after losing seven of its first eight contests. “It took a little bit of time. … Happy for Sab, she puts in a lot of work to be a really good player.”
Despite Ionescu’s near-perfection from the field, the Liberty needed a 29-11 third-quarter outburst to put away the Lynx (3-9), who beat New York, 84-77, here Sunday.
Han Xu scored a career-high 15 points, Rebecca Allen had 13 and Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb finished with 11 apiece for the Liberty, who will be back at it Friday night in Indiana.
As for Ionescu’s bid for her second triple-double, the NCAA’s all-time leader in that category didn’t blink at the opportunity to sit with her teammates and save some of her energy for the Fever after her coach weighed in.
“Feels good to get a win like this and propels us going into the next game,” Ionescu noted.
“She wanted to come back in, but I didn’t want to risk it,” Brondello added. “She was close to a triple-double. We have a lot of games coming up and she’s played a lot of minutes. It’s not worth it. I took the smart route.”
GIVE ME LIBERTY: The Liberty were still without All-Star Betnijah Laney (knee), who is due back by August, DiDi Richards (hamstring) and Jocelyn Willoughby (knee) Tuesday. … After visiting Indiana, the Liberty will return to Downtown Brooklyn Sunday to kick off a three-game homestand vs. Chicago. … Ionescu’s former head coach from Oregon, Kelly Graves, was at Tuesday’s game. Ionescu had her only previous career triple-double against the Lynx last year.
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