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Liberty beat Dream behind Sabrina Ionescu’s record -breaking night

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

We’re always striving for perfection. You want to do everything to the best of your abilities with no mistakes, no miscues, and no drop-offs. While you may not bat 1.000 in your quest for perfection, every hit goes a long way to getting you where you want to be.

When we last saw the New York Liberty, they let go of a 19-point lead and suffered a terrible loss to the Chicago Sky at home on Sunday afternoon. It was an incredibly frustrating loss that had the team questioning their consistency levels. They’ve been off for longer than they would like thanks to the air quality issues currently affecting Canada and the Northeast portion of the United States, but they returned to work on Friday against the Atlanta Dream.

Similar to the first half on Sunday, the Liberty were firing on all cylinders. New York forced Atlanta into a myriad of errors as they scored 16 points on 12 Atlanta turnovers. Atlanta actually had the game tied in the middle of the second quarter, but the Liberty went on an extended 28-6 run to close out the half in style.

However, they started to let go of the rope again in the third quarter. The Dream started cutting into that 22-point lead and got the Liberty lead all the way down to seven points. For fans of the New York Mets, it felt like they were still in a nightmare following the Atlanta Braves’ series of comebacks this week. However, this New York team had a much better time in the Peach State.

On Sunday, the Liberty couldn’t stem the tide and the Sky stormed all the way back. As the Sky took the lead, New York didn’t stay committed, lost their composure to a degree, and couldn’t seal the deal. Tonight, the game flipped on this play

Marine Johannes’ steal and layup powered a 10-0 run that pushed the Liberty lead back up to 17 at the end of the third quarter. The Liberty bench, led by Kayla Thornton, were able to provide that spark as they out hustled and out worked Atlanta on both sides of the ball. That energy, combined with the excellence of the starters led to a dominant 106-83 win for New York. The W improved the Liberty’s record to 5-2 in the WNBA season.

In post, Sandy Brondello was asked what the message to the team was during a third quarter timeouts and said:

Breanna Stewart was her usual excellent self and she poured in 25 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes. Stewart and the Liberty were able to use their size to overwhelm a small Dream team on the interior and frustrate them when they were on offense. For a Liberty team that wound up winning in a landslide, I wonder if a win like this sets a standard for the group going forward. I asked Stewart about that, and she told me:

The Liberty still haven’t put a complete 40-minute game together yet. However, you see the overwhelming flashes of dominance when they’re locked in on both sides of the ball.

Stick with it

New York Liberty v Atlanta Dream Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Jonquel Jones isn’t back to her MVP level quite yet, but she’s getting more and more comfortable in the Liberty attack. On Friday night, JJ scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked two shots in 20 minutes of action. These two plays back-to-back exemplify the potential of Jones in this Liberty attack

Sandy Brondello spoke about her star big in postgame and said:

Foot fractures are tough to recover from. And with more time away from the injury, we’ll start to see Jones

Acknowledge her

Connecticut Sun v New York Liberty Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Sabrina Ionescu’s rough outings against the Sky had some folks concerned. She revealed she was dealing with a tight hamstring, but said she was improving by the day and wouldn’t be affected going forward. Tonight, she reminded people just how special of a player she truly is.

Ionescu set the Liberty franchise record with eight 3-pointers tonight. In the halfcourt, the Dream kept going under on pick and rolls when she was handling the ball, they didn’t switch in time, and Ionescu punished them every single time

When you make mistakes or aren’t fully locked in against an All Star player, they will punish you. A lot of her makes came within the flow of the offense as good ball movement and great flow in transition led to open shot after open shot.

When she set the team record, she did it in style

Ionescu tied

  • Diana Taurasi (five times)
  • Jewell Loyd (two times)
  • Renee Montgomery
  • Leilani Mitchell
  • Riquana Williams
  • Shekinna Stricklen

…for second most threes all-time in a single game. Kristi Toliver and Kelsey Mitchell are tied for first with nine three pointers made in a game.

Amidst the 3-point barrage, I noticed something interesting. Late in the Sky game, we saw Ionescu attacking the basket more and finishing at the cup. Tonight, she kept it up and supplemented it by getting to the free throw line ten times and going 9-of-10.

“Continuing to just create advantages for my teammates. Whether it’s for myself in the paint, or to be able to drive and kick, that’s one of the strengths of this time is just how many weapons we have. When you have Stewie spaced, JJ spaced, Betnijah [Laney] being a great cutter and setting great flare (screens) and [Courtney Vandersloot] getting us into the offense, it’s kind of just pick your poison. And so, getting into the paint and continuing to just attack and put pressure on their defense is gonna open up a lot for us. And so, I know that’s something all of us as guards is trying to do, us posts are trying to do, is continuing to attack the rim and get us easy baskets.”

The Liberty are at their best when they’re attacking and have two feet in the paint. When you have players like Ionescu and Stewart that command so much attention, there will be plenty of opportunities for them and their teammates to defeat foes. It’s a perfect blend of perimeter and interior excellence for the Liberty and as the group continues finding itself, it will only get better from here.

In pregame, Ionescu joked her pregame celebrations are still a work in progress. We’ve seen her shout out Mikal Bridges’ of the Brooklyn Nets, and tonight she bigged up Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks.

New York basketball is in a wonderful place right now. You love to see it.

Next up

Phoenix Mercury v Dallas Wings Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty are back home on Sunday afternoon to face the Dallas Wings. Tip after 1:00 p.m.