Sabrina Ionescu mentioned after her New York Liberty’s game against the Las Vegas Aces Wednesday night that she thinks she’s won pretty much every game she’s gotten a triple-double in during her college and pro career with one exception being June 12th’s loss to the Chicago Sky this year.
That was the second triple-double of her WNBA career after 26 in college — she of course didn’t do a whole lot of losing at Oregon.
Well, Ionescu’s third WNBA triple-double did come in a win. And what a win it was — and what a triple-double.
The Liberty snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating one of the best teams in the league in the Aces and scored a whopping 116 points in the process. The team registered 35 assists, with Ionescu leading the way with 10 to go along with her 31 points and 13 rebounds. She shot an incredible 7-of-8 from three and 4-of-4 at the line and never turned the ball over.
- Ionescu has her 3rd triple-double, tying the WNBA career record. 31 PTS is a new WNBA record in a triple-double performance.— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) July 7, 2022
- 35 assists from the Liberty ties the WNBA record for a team.
- 116 points is a Liberty single-game record. 223 combined is a WNBA record in regulation.
Candace Parker’s record of three career triple-doubles lasted just 13 days before being met by Ionescu and Parker has played in 379 career games compared to Ionescu’s 54. As the above tweet mentions, there have never been more points scored in a triple-double than Ionescu’s 31 on Wednesday and they came with one that tied the all-time record in a statement win on the road.
Buț Ionescu didn’t even come close to gloating. She’s gone from on the cusp of making the All-Star Game last year to being arguably a Top 5 player in the league, so it wasn’t unreasonable for one reporter to ask her if she feels like she’s the best player every time she steps on the court.
“I’m just trying to be the best that I can every time that I step out on the floor,” Ionescu responded. “It’s me vs. me and so I’m just trying to continue to get better, continue to learn from all the situations that I’ve been put in. My teammates are putting me in great positions, my coaching staff’s putting me in great positions and I wouldn’t be able to get triple-doubles without the help from my teammates. We’re continuing to learn one another, continuing to play really well and we have another one tomorrow, so we’re gonna have to keep learning and growing.”
On the zero turnovers, Ionescu offered:
“I was just really trying to take care of the ball, I thought that was really important as the point guard and as someone who is a primary ball-handler. Just wanting to continue to work on that part of the game and lead by example. If I’m turning the ball over, everyone is turning the ball over. So just trying to do my best to just get us interactions, get the ball in everyone’s hands in a position to score.”
So Ionescu played it straight, but for fans of the WNBA this was a historic accomplishment and begs the question: just how many more triple-doubles will she get?
“Sabrina, I mean what can you say,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. “So deserving of it. I’m so happy for her because she works so hard. Hadn’t played the best the last two games, but she’s one of most tough-minded players that I know. Can come out and do what she does. We put a lot on her shoulders, but she’s ready to take that over.”
Brondello’s Liberty improved to 9-12 (ninth place, a half a game behind two teams tied for seventh). It was of course a historic night for the team as a whole in addition to Ionescu. Center Han Xu had 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists off the bench, Ionescu’s fellow All-Star Natasha Howard had 18 points and three helpers and Marine Johannès, a hugely impactful midseason addition who has made at least three threes in six-straight games, had 11 points and nine assists.
Xu was 11-of-12 from the field and 2-of-2 from distance. As a team, New York shot 57.5 percent from the field, 18-of-31 from three and 14-of-16 at the charity stripe.
“We haven't scored 100 points all season long, we’re happy to get out of 80 most days,” Brondello said. “Obviously the way the Vegas plays we knew that we’d have some opportunities to put some points on the board. It was more whether we could stop them and slow ‘em down. We didn’t do a great job in that first half with 63 points (allowed). But we didn’t defend the 3-point line and the second half that’s what it was about. We just had a little more sense of urgency, we played the personnel way better. But 116 points, that’s a lot. Sharing the ball, 35 assists, I think that’s fantastic.”
And while she wouldn’t self-promote, Ionescu did acknowledge what this win could mean for the Liberty moving forward as they try to make the playoffs.
“It’s huge. We’ve lost two very winnable games this month. And so we’re continuing to battle and continuing to get better. And a game like this is huge for us going into the All-Star break. We have one more game and then an All-Star break and then we see them again. And so this is just kind of a nod to us that we’re continuing to get better, we’re doing the right things. And yeah we lost two ones that we really wish we could get back, but I think as long as we’re getting better, we still have a half of a season left to turn this around and keep growing.”