Brooklyn Boro

Liberty All-Stars help avenge Cup loss

Jones, Stewart and Ionescu carry New York over Minnesota

July 3, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu found out Tuesday that they were WNBA All-Stars.

Then, the trio went out and shined brightest against the Minnesota Lynx in front of 10,846 satisfied customers at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Jones put up a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, Stewart had 17 points and 17 boards while Ionescu, battling through health issues, added 17 points as well, spearheading New York past Minnesota, 76-67, and avenging last week’s loss to the Lynx in the Commissioner’s Cup title game.

“This is a team that kind of had our number and we wanted to show what we can do when we play our style of basketball,” said Jones, referring to the Liberty’s two defeats to Minnesota this season.

“Obviously, this was a huge game. It’s a regular-season game,” added Ionescu, who also found out Tuesday that she was the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Month. “But they’re 2-0 against us and this was personal,”

The Lynx (14-5) appeared to have the Liberty (17-3) right where they wanted them yet again when Cecilia Zandalasini made a layup to put Minnesota up 65-61 with eight minutes left in regulation.

But New York clamped down on defense and went on a game-deciding 15-0 burst thereafter.

Stewart, the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, accounted for nine of those points. Her free throws with 50 ticks left on the clock gave the Liberty a 76-65 advantage and extinguished any hope of a Minnesota comeback.

The Lynx, who had won all but one of their previous 10 contests, including last Tuesday’s 84-89 triumph over New York in the Cup Final at UBS Arena on Long Island, only managed 25 points in the second half.

Eight of those came in the fourth quarter, when the Liberty proved they were still the team to beat in the WNBA, boasting the league’s top record and improving on the best start in franchise history.

“We can be a great defensive team and we committed to it,” noted Liberty coach Sandy Brondello.

“We were aggressive and very connected to keep this team to 25 points (in the second half) and eight points (in the fourth quarter).”

Ionescu, whose voice was raspy during the postgame press conference, refused to sit this one out.

Eastern Conference Player of the Month Sabrina Ionescu played through illness to help the Liberty beat the Lynx at Barclays Center. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

Though she went 1-for-10 from 3-point range, she did bury 6-of-10 inside the stripe while grabbing five rebounds and handing out five assists.

“Obviously, what she did tonight was the unselfish part of her,” Jones said of her fellow All-Star.

“No matter how I felt I was going to leave everything out on the floor,” added Ionescu.

Kayla McBride scored 17 points and Napheesa Collier added 15 for the Western Conference-leading Lynx, who will visit Brooklyn again on Sept. 15.

“Hold a really good team to 37% (shooting) on the road, we did what we could to give ourselves a chance to win this game,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve told the Associated Press.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton had nine points for New York, which will kick off a two-game road trip Saturday in Indiana against rookie phenom Caitlin Clark and the Fever.

But for the next few days, the Liberty can relish getting one back against a team many are predicting will meet New York for the WNBA championship in October.

“The last time we played them, we played into their hands,” said Ionescu. “This game we showed how much we’ve grown. … This was a bigger game than it really was in terms of being a regular-season game.”

Breanna Stewart fueled New York’s 15-0 game-deciding burst against Minnesota Tuesday on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Ionescu was named Player of the Month for the third time in her career after averaging 19.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and a league-best 7.4 assists. The Liberty went 10-1 during June. The All-Star guard also extended her franchise-record streak of consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer to 44, the longest active run in the WNBA. … The 20th annual WNBA All-Star Game will be played in Phoenix on July 20. Player selected to Team USA, including Ionescu and Stewart, will square off against the league’s top players. That means Jones will be competing against her two teammates at the Footprint Center. “I will swat her shot,” Jones jabbed of squaring off against Ionescu. Jones is an All-Star for the fifth time and Ionescu for a third while Stewart is a six-time selection.

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