Sabrina Ionescu made a 3-pointer that put the New York Liberty up five with 3:41 to go and under a minute later made a half-jumper, half-floater plus a free throw to put them up six and the Dallas Wings never got any closer on Monday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Ionescu finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, Betnijah Laney had 26 points and the Liberty won 88-81 to improve to 5-1. Dallas fell to 1-2.
Ionescu has been heroic in nearly every Liberty game so far this season and Monday was no different even though she didn't put up a ton of points. New York clearly has a clutch and special player on its hands.
“One of her things is really those (big) moments,” Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said of Ionescu. “She could be 8-for-8 or 0-for-8, she’s gonna want the ball in that moment and she’s gonna rise to the occasion. We’ve talked a lot about that already. I mean, we’re six games in and we’ve talked about how many times Sab has risen to a moment.”
Natasha Howard added 17 points and six rebounds to the winning cause before going down with a knee injury at 7:03 remaining. She did not return to the game.
“We don’t know anything right now,” Hopkins said of the injury. “We’re gonna get some tests done tomorrow and we have our fingers crossed.”
The Wings started to mount a comeback after Howard’s injury, scoring seven-straight points to cut it to six with 5:54 to play. The run was 8-4 in favor of Dallas over the next 2:01 and was capped by a Marina Mabrey 3-point play that cut it to two before Ionescu’s momentum-saving plays.
Mabrey finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists and teammate Arike Ogunbowale notched 24 points in defeat. Kayla Thornton added 12 points and 11 boards while Tyasha Harris dished out a game-high seven assists.
It was a frustrating loss for the Wings, who could easily be 3-0 right now if things had been slightly different in their overtime loss to the Storm and on Monday. They were up 39-31 on the Liberty with 2:28 to go before the half, but New York went on an 18-2 run that spanned the end of the second and the first 4:09 of the third.
The Liberty, on the other hand, are looking really good six games into the season and are in second place in the league.
“I really don’t believe that the win column really depicted what this team was capable of last year and especially with Sabrina going down as early as she did in those first three games,” Laney said. “And then the free agents we were talking to, I just really thought that it would be something special. I really liked the fight and everything that I saw within New York last year and I just feel like it’s home.”