Sabrina Ionescu (JSN file photo by Tony Maddox)

New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu Sets the Tone for the Playoffs

Heading into this playoff game, a key component to assuring success was stout defensive play and dominant rebounding. The New York Liberty managed to ensure both aspects in a dominant win over the Washington Mystics, 90-75, Friday night. The electrifying performance of Liberty star guard Sabrina Ionescu helped propel the team, as she recorded 29 points and six rebounds. The Barclays Stadium’s energy was polarizing and it helped affect the game accordingly.

Naturally, the Liberty began to feed into the support and intensify their production. Whether Ionescu hit a big three and emphasized the crowd to get louder or Betnijah Laney made a key corner three and stared deep into the crowd. The stadium remained packed and exciting throughout the entire game. 

The Liberty began the game slow and methodic as the Mystics appeared to strike fast and early. However, the dynamic Liberty guard Kayla Thornton began to apply ungodly defensive pressure on the Mystic guards helping cause turnovers. Thornton’s impact on the game helped swing the crowd's energy back into the game after a disappointing first quarter.

Yet, the Liberty bench played exceptionally and jump-started the offense as well. Although the Liberty wasn’t playing per se their best basketball, however the rebounding allowed them to stay within the game. 

“I think we’ve become a great defensive and offensive rebounding team, it’s been a focus of ours because we believe it’s another way we can put our stamp on the game,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello stated. “... Stewie didn’t shoot the ball well but her effectiveness was really helpful for us. She draws so much attention it opens it up for everybody else. For example, look at plus/minus and it’s the highest of the game and that’s what we look for.”

Tides Turn for the New York Liberty

As the game progressed, the Liberty began to find their rhythm and allowed themselves to have an explosive second half.  In the past, Ionsecu has proven she can get hot at a second's notice, however this game felt different. In fact, it felt personal. Prior to the playoffs, the Mystics played in Barclays and managed to beat them on a buzzer-beater. Ionescu mentioned that she wanted to protect her home court and send a message to the fans.

“I understand I don’t need to rush that part of my game, everyone was playing well,” Ionescu mentioned during the post-game press conference. “ I knew if they continued to play well I would have an opportunity to knock down shots and I was just kind of locked in.”

“Obviously, to win this first game at home is huge for this crowd and what they meant for us all season long,” she continues. “Tonight, they were rowdy and electric and we just want to continue to give us the motivation we need and want to continue to play our best basketball when we are home.”

The Liberty have set the tone for the remainder of the playoffs and have an opportunity to close out the Mystics on Tuesday night. Again, the Liberty will have the opportunity to put on a show for this electrifying crowd and attempt to win in another dominating performance. 

About The Author