Early in the 3rd quarter of Friday’s 2021 WNBA year opener in between the New York Liberty and Indiana Fever, previous No. 1 overall select Sabrina Ionescu banked in a 3-stage heave as the shot clock winded down to just one.
The fortuitous bounce prompted a wry smile from Ionescu as she jogged back again on defense.
In the ultimate seconds of a tie sport in the fourth quarter, the previous Oregon star came off a stagger display with a bit additional conviction, draining a contested shot around a closing Jessica Breland, lifting the Liberty to a 90-87 win.
Ionescu scored 13 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter, carrying the Liberty to victory in just her fourth activity as a experienced. The 2nd-year guard missed the closing 19 games of her rookie time with an ankle damage. Ionescu showcased her all-about ability all over, adding 11 helps and 6 rebounds.
“Well, she’s an fantastic participant,” Indiana Fever mentor Marianne Stanley reported of Ionescu. “We kept her underneath wraps for a few quarters of the video game and then in the fourth quarter, as soon as she manufactured a person shot it virtually kind of ignited the relaxation of the quarter for her. She’s a terrific participant and produced a large shot when they essential her to make a single.”
Ionescu and Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell (23 factors) held a back-and-forth struggle in the fourth. Mitchell seemed to response every one particular of Ionescu’s baskets down the extend. The fourth-calendar year guard scored 7 of 9 points throughout a 9-2 run in the fourth. Her jumper off a Danielle Robinson steal tied the recreation at 75 with 4:10 remaining in the game.
Ionescu came via in the clutch with the match on the line, but the Fever could not execute with a prospect to seal the get.
Just after a pair Ionescu free of charge throws tied the game at 87 with 21 seconds left, the Fever held the ball with the clock ticking down, searching to consider the ultimate shot of the recreation. Robinson waited for Mitchell to perform her may perhaps as a result of a sequence of screens, but the Liberty defended perfectly as previous Fever guard Betnijah Laney contested tricky on Mitchell’s catch. The tight defense compelled Mitchell to travel, environment up Ionescu’s winning shot.
“Of course the ref identified as a get in touch with. … I think I can be much better future time in figuring out how to situationally be distinct, be superior,” Mitchell mentioned. “It becoming the first activity I think we know what it normally takes to conquer a excellent New York team. They are quite remarkable. Ideally we can give them one on Sunday.”
The Fever dominated on the inside with middle Teaira McCowan leading the way with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Veteran ahead Jantel Lavender extra 9 details and 10 rebounds in her Fever debut.
Indiana outscored New York 50-to-26 in the paint and had a 45-to-28 edge in rebounding, but the Liberty’s strong capturing from the exterior overcame their deficiencies inside. The Liberty shot 13-of-26 from 3, though the Fever shot just 3-of-18 powering the line.
“You definitely have to blend in more three balls,” Fever forward Jessica Breland reported. “Acquiring the rebounds that we received, we should have gained the match.”
The Fever struggled defending the 3 and they struggled defending the decide-and-roll. Laney exploited the Fever’s select-and-roll defense early, scoring 20 of 30 points in the initial fifty percent. Rookie Michaela Onyenwere included 10 of her 18 details in the initial 50 % as effectively.
The Fever do not have considerably time to dwell on the tough decline. They are going to journey dwelling to Indiana to facial area the Liberty aon Sunday.
Observe IndyStar sporting activities reporter Akeem Glaspie on Twitter at @THEAkeemGlaspie.