Brooklyn Boro

Ionescu’s monster fourth can’t save Liberty

Latest All-Star effort not enough in loss to Aces at Barclays

July 13, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Sabrina Ionescu saved her best for last, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Liberty from losing for the fourth time in their last five games.

Ionescu set a WNBA record by scoring 21 of her 27 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Liberty returned from the annual All-Star break with a 107-101 defeat to the Las Vegas Aces in front of 5,201 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Ionescu, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month and coming off a 19-point effort in Sunday’s WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago, went 9-of-17 from the floor, 4-of-9 from 3-point range and buried all five of her free

The former No. 1 overall pick also handed out five assists, grabbed three rebounds and picked up a pair of steals for the Liberty (9-14), who rebounded from a dismal 1-7 start by climbing to 8-10 before this ongoing slump began.

Ionescu’s fourth-quarter outburst helped New York make the history books as the Liberty scored a league-record 73 points after intermission.

Natasha Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds in New York’s loss to Las Vegas at Barclays Center Tuesday night. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

“Unbelievable. She was on fire, twenty-one points (in the fourth),” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said of her point guard. “Her shot-making ability is amazing.”

It certainly was down the stretch as New York used a late 12-5 run to climb within 95-86 with just under two minutes remaining after Ionescu knocked down a pair of free throws.

She sank a 3-pointer with 49 ticks left on the clock to shave the deficit to 97-92, but the Liberty never got any closer.

“They weren’t trapping because we were able to get stops,” Ionescu said of her late surge. “Shoot the ball if you’re open and that’s what I did.”

Fellow All-Star Natasha Howard finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Sami Whitcomb hit five 3-pointers on her way to 17 points for the Liberty, who will be right back at it with the Western Conference-leading Aces here on Thursday.

Kelsey Plum scored 27 points and A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young had 23 apiece for Vegas (16-7), which took a 52-28 lead into halftime on Plum’s 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left.

Ionescu and the Liberty stormed back thereafter, but still weren’t able to overtake the team they beat in Sin City last week.

“Our mindset wasn’t what it needed to be (in the first half),” Brondello noted. “”We can’t do that, not against these good teams. We need to play the full 40 minutes Thursday.”

Sabrina Ionescu scored 19 points and dazzled during the Skills Competition at Sunday’s WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. AP Photo by Nam Y. Huh

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Ionescu enjoyed her first All-Star start and appearance in the Windy City, hitting 6-of-10 3-pointers to help Team Wilson to a 134-112 win over Team Stewart. She also had six rebounds and six assists in 23 minutes. “Competing in my first WNBA All-Star Game alongside several legends was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget,” Ionescu said. “We all had a blast today and I’m glad we got the win.” … Howard made her second career All-Star appearance Sunday and finished with eight points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. “Sab and I wanted to get this win and represent the New York Liberty; to do both was a blessing,” added Howard. … The Liberty will kick off a two-game road trip next Tuesday in Connecticut before visiting Washington on Thursday.

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