Brooklyn Boro

Ionescu sits as Liberty fall to Dream

All-Star point guard shelved by hamstring in loss to Atlanta

June 14, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Liberty All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionescu’s sore left hamstring kept her on the bench Tuesday night in Downtown Brooklyn.

The Atlanta Dream took full advantage of her absence.

Just four days after torching Atlanta for a career-high 37 points, Ionescu was unable to take the floor in the rematch as the Dream held on for an 86-79 victory over New York in front of 5,719 fans at Barclays Center.

Coming off Sunday’s 102-93 triumph here vs. Dallas on Sunday, the Liberty (6-3) were looking for their third straight win and seventh in eight games against Atlanta (3-5), which had lost three in a row and four of five before arriving on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Ionescu, who put up 22 points against the Wings last weekend, was ruled out Tuesday morning, and the Liberty were unable to build on the first back-to-back 100-point performances in franchise history.

“It’s just precautionary. She hasn’t got an injury per se,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello revealed. “But it was the smartest thing for us to do, knowing we have four days off after this.”

Sharpshooter Marine Johannes filled in admirably for Ionescu, pouring in a game-high 18 points while drilling four 3-pointers.

“I always want Marine to be aggressive,” Brondello said. “I was proud of her. … She made some big shots for us.”

Betnijah Laney added 17 points and Breanna Stewart, fresh off being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time this year, finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for New York, which took a 62-60 lead on Laney’s 10-footer early in the fourth quarter.

Atlanta rookie Haley Jones answered with a 3-pointer and the Liberty played from behind the rest of the way en route to their second loss in the last three home contests.

Johannes’ 20-footer with just over a minute to play pulled New York within three points, but the Liberty were unable to overcome a poor shooting night, going 26-of-66 (39 percent) from the floor, including 8-of-27 (29 percent) from 3-point range.

Marine Johannes poured in 18 points, filling in for All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionscu Tuesday night at Barclays Center. AP Photo by Rex Arbogast

Last Friday night, Ionescu buried a career-best and franchise-record eight 3-ballls all by herself for New York, which burned Atlanta, 106-83.

Allisha Gray scored 16 points and Jones added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Dream, who will host New York on June 23 to close out the three-game season series between the conference rivals.

“Credit to Atlanta, they really wanted it more,” Brondello said of Atlanta’s 16 second-chance points and 42-33 advantage in rebounds. “It sucks that we lost, but we can learn a lot from this.”

Jonquel Jones had 12 points and six rebounds and Courtney Vandersloot amassed 11 points, six boards and six helpers for the Liberty without her usual backcourt mate.

“We just didn’t get that rythm that we’ve had in the past. We just didn’t make enough shots tonight,” Vandersloot said. “If we clean up the little things, we’ll be in a different position.”

New York will try to close out its three-game homestand on a winning note here Sunday vs. Phoenix on Sunday. The game will be televised on CBS at noon.

And Ionescu should be back on the Brooklyn hardwood.

Betnijah Laney and the Liberty saw their streak of 100-point games and consecutive wins end against Atlanta Tuesday night in Brooklyn. AP Photo by Lindsey Wasson

GIVE ME LIBERTY: After hosting Phoenix on Sunday, the Liberty will head back to Atlanta next Friday before returning to Brooklyn to host the Washington Mystics, who beat New York, 80-64, on its May 19 opener in our nation’s capital. … Despite going a brutal 1-for-14 from the field Tuesday, Stewart drained 10-of-12 free throws. She scored 32 points vs. Dallas on Sunday, but didn’t go to the line once in 36 minutes. “We have to play better around Stewie (with Ionescu) out,” Johannes noted. “We have to help her.”

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