Alexa PhilippouESPN3 minute read
New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu scored a playoff career-high 29 points behind a franchise postseason-record seven 3-pointers to catapult the Liberty to a 90-75 victory over the Washington Mystics in Game 1 of their best-of-three first-round playoff series. .
Friday’s victory marked New York’s first home win in the playoffs since 2015; After reaching the postseason last year, Liberty transformed their roster into a super team in the offseason and hope to take home the franchise’s first championship next month.
Ionescu’s seven 3-pointers are tied for third-most in any WNBA playoff game and were the most in a playoff opener in league history.
No. 2-seeded New York’s victory came five days after the No. 7-seeded Mystics stunned Liberty at Barclays Center in their regular-season finale on a buzzer-beater by Brittney Sykes, after which Washington’s color guard, Natasha Cloud, bid farewell to the crowd.
“They ran us off our court last game and we had to show them what that feels like,” Ionescu told ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude after the game. “We got fooled and we had to come here and show what we’re made of, and we did that tonight.”
The former Oregon guard and 2020 No. 1 overall pick broke the WNBA single-season record this summer with 128 3-pointers and is third in the league in 3-point percentage at 44.8%, more than 10 percentage points better than what he shot from the bow. last year (33.3%).
Early on Friday, Liberty’s superstars were quiet, and wing Betnijah Laney, who finished with 19 points, kept Liberty in the game. Ionescu entered the locker room with 9 points, 1 of 4 shooting from deep.
“B (Laney) was coming down shooting 3s in transition, JJ (Jonquel Jones) was setting up inside,” Ionescu said, “and I knew as long as everyone kept playing well, I’d have a chance to come down and knock down.” shooting.”
Upset in the second half after some referee fouls, Ionescu channeled that emotion productively, helping fuel her outburst: “some of those three-pointers were for the refs, with all due respect,” Ionescu said. The guard closed the third frame on a personal 5-0 run in the final minute to put Liberty up 12 before closing the game on 4-of-5 shots from goal in the fourth, frequently cheering up the raucous Barclays crowd. He then hit a final 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in the game and New York up 12.
Ionescu’s seven 3-pointers are tied for third-most in any WNBA playoff game and were the most in a playoff opener in league history until Atlanta’s Rhyne Howard scored eight 3-pointers for the Dream later. Friday night.
“I was in that zone, locked in, the basket felt really big when I shot,” Ionescu said. “To be able to win this first home game is huge just for this crowd and what it meant to us all season long. But also tonight, they were loud, they were electrifying, they continued to give us the motivation we needed and we want to continue playing our best basketball when We play at home.”
Jones added a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds for New York; Myisha Hines-Allen led Washington with a season-high 21 points.
The second game, which will also take place in Brooklyn, will begin on Tuesday at 7 pm. Washington will hope to keep its season alive and force a winner-take-all third game, which would be played in DC next Friday.
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