Unbeaten Liberty roll through Storm

New York improves to 4-0 with win over Seattle at Barclays

May 21, 2024 JT Torenli
Sabrina Ionescu and the New York Liberty are off to a perfect 4-0 start, their best since 2007.
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Sabrina Ionescu and the New York Liberty are off to their hottest start in 17 years.

And they don’t look the least bit interested in cooling down.

The All-Star point guard posted game highs of 20 points and eight assists Monday night as the Liberty improved to 4-0 with a 74-63 victory over the Seattle Storm in front of 9,381 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Ionescu, who has yet to find the touch that made her the best 3-point shooter in the WNBA last year, shook off a 1-of-6 performance from beyond the arc by showing off the rest of her impressive arsenal.

She went 6-of-11 from inside the 3-point line, sank all five of her free throws and picked up her 100th career steal en route to a team-best plus-21 point-differential rating.

“I think that’s the evolution of Sabrina,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s quite young, but she’s achived so much in her career. … Sabrina was the one who was giving us that energy tonight.”

Other than a 4-of-9 effort from 3-point range in Saturday’s win over visiting Indiana, Ionescu has gone a combined 4-for-33 from deep this year. 

“To just continue to attack,” Ionescu said of her mindset. “It was a total team effort whether the shot was falling or not. We just found ways to continue to get each other open.”

New York, which hadn’t started a campaign with four straight wins since 2007, stayed one-half game ahead of Connecticut for the best record in the league and built off its home-and-home sweep of the Fever.

Reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones had 16 points apiece and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 13 for the Liberty (4-0), who ran out to a 27-15 advantage after 10 minutes and never looked back.

Seattle did cut the deficit to nine early in the fourth quarter after former Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb drilled a 27-footer and Ezi Macbegor hit a free throw.

But Ionescu made two from the line, Stewart knocked down an 11-foot jumper, Jones hit a pair from the charity stripe and Ionescu converted a three-point play to open a 69-53 cushion with 5:48 remaining.

Stewart grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and Jones had eight as New York edged Seattle (1-3) on the boards, 36-34, but dominated along the interior by outscoring the Storm 42-24 in the paint.

“Just being the aggressors,” said Jones, who combined with Stewart for four of the Liberty’s five blocked shots. “Making sure we hit first and not reacting. I think that was the biggest thing tonight.”

Jewell Loyd scored 13 points and pulled down nine boards and Magbegor added 12 points for Seattle, which was coming off Sunday’s 84-75 win at Washington.

Kayla Thornton led New York reserves with seven points and Nyara Sabally had four rebounds, a block and a steal in 12 minutes off the bench.

“We’re just trusting ourselves,” said Sabally.

Though there was significantly more hype and a sellout crowd of 17,735 for Saturday’s home opener against rookie phenom Caitlin Clark and the Fever here, the Barclays crowd inspired the Liberty to sole possession of the best record in the WNBA.

“We’re capitalizing on the energy we have here,” said Ionescu.

“I mean this crowd continues to give us energy whenever we need it,” added Stewart. “We always seem to think it’s loud and they make it even louder.”

Brooklyn fans will get their next chance to raise the roof Thursday night when the Liberty host Chicago at 7 p.m.

The Sky handed visiting New York a 101-53 defeat in the Windy City in the preseason opener for both squads on May 7.

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Laney-Hamilton set a league record to start the year with her fourth straight game with a plus-16 rating. … After hosting the Sky, the Liberty will head to Minnesota on Saturday for a 1 p.m. matinee. New York will return to Brooklyn and open a three-game homestand next Wednesday night vs. Phoenix. … Stewart, who won two WNBA titles and Finals MVPs during her six years in Seattle, improved to 5-0 against her former teammates since signing with New York. She had been the leading scorer for the Liberty in each of the previous four meetings between the teams. … Future Hall of Fame point guard Courtney Vandersloot failed to score in 23 minutes Monday, but only took one shot. She did pile up four assists and three rebounds while committing three of New York’s 15 turnovers. … The Liberty also began 4-0 in their inaugural 1997 campaign. … New York only allowed 24 points in the first half to Seattle, its lowest point allowed before intermission since 2018.

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