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With Sabrina Ionescu on crutches, Liberty gets blown out by Mercury

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Phoenix Mercury v New York Liberty Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Sabrina Ionescu smiled from the sidelines, but she was propped up by crutches and a cast. So, the Liberty went down to the Phoenix Mercury, 96-67, in the Bradenton, FLA, “wubble” Sunday afternoon. New York is now 0-4 for the second straight season.

Ionescu suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain, the most severe, two nights ago in a loss to the Atlanta Dream. Although nothing has been announced officially, Shams Charania has reported the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft will be out of a month. If so, Ionescu would miss 12 games ... more than half the pandemic-shortened season.

Holly Rowe of ESPN spoke with Ionescu prior to the game and although Rowe said Ionescu is optimistic, the medical review of her injury was not yet complete, that medical personnel must wait till the swelling to go down.

To make things worse, Bria Hartley, who signed with Phoenix this spring after three years in New York, scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Mercury.

Hartley shot 10-of-18 shooting. Meanwhile, Mercury icon Diana Taurasi had 18 points, nine assists, three steals and two blocks and perennial All-Star Brittney Griner added 16 points for Phoenix, who’s split four games so far.

On a positive note, Kia Nurse, who missed Friday’s game with her own ankle injury led the Liberty with 16 points but shot 3-of-17 from the field. Layshia Clarendon added 12 points and Amanda Zahui B. scored 11.

Nurse spoke post-game about the need to keep grinding despite the adversity...

Phoenix, which never trailed, led by as many as 16 in the first half and took a 41-27 lead into halftime. The Liberty used an 18-3 run to trim their deficit to 55-53 when Zahui B. hit a 3-pointer with two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Mercury scored 17 of the next 19 points to pull away for good.

New York shot just 24.7 percent (18 of 73) from the field, including 5-of-35 from 3-point range. Gino Magliochetti tweeted that the Liberty made history in the loss, but not of the positive kind...

But on the brighter side, at the 4:51 mark in the first quarter, New York unveiled an all-rookie lineup on the floor. This is the first time a WNBA team has done so since the Dallas Wings on July 30, 2017.