Early in the 3rd quarter of Friday’s 2021 WNBA year opener among the New York Liberty and Indiana Fever, former No. 1 in general pick Sabrina Ionescu banked in a 3-place heave as the shot clock winded down to one particular.
The fortuitous bounce prompted a wry smile from Ionescu as she jogged back again on protection.
In the final seconds of a tie sport in the fourth quarter, the previous Oregon star came off a stagger screen with a little bit more conviction, draining a contested shot about a closing Jessica Breland, lifting the Liberty to a 90-87 acquire.
Ionescu scored 13 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter, carrying the Liberty to victory in just her fourth game as a skilled. The next-calendar year guard missed the ultimate 19 games of her rookie year with an ankle personal injury. Ionescu showcased her all-around capability throughout, adding 11 helps and 6 rebounds.
“Nicely, she’s an fantastic participant,” Indiana Fever coach Marianne Stanley said of Ionescu. “We kept her beneath wraps for 3 quarters of the sport and then in the fourth quarter, as soon as she built just one shot it virtually variety of ignited the rest of the quarter for her. She’s a wonderful player and produced a huge shot when they necessary her to make one.”
Ionescu and Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell (23 factors) held a again-and-forth fight in the fourth. Mitchell seemed to response just about every a single of Ionescu’s baskets down the stretch. The fourth-12 months guard scored 7 of 9 details during a 9-2 operate in the fourth. Her jumper off a Danielle Robinson steal tied the recreation at 75 with 4:10 remaining in the sport.
Ionescu came through in the clutch with the sport on the line, but the Fever could not execute with a chance to seal the earn.
Just after a pair Ionescu cost-free throws tied the activity at 87 with 21 seconds left, the Fever held the ball with the clock ticking down, seeking to get the final shot of the match. Robinson waited for Mitchell to perform her may perhaps by way of a series of screens, but the Liberty defended properly as previous Fever guard Betnijah Laney contested really hard on Mitchell’s catch. The tight protection forced Mitchell to vacation, placing up Ionescu’s profitable shot.
“Obviously the ref known as a contact. … I consider I can be superior following time in realizing how to situationally be distinct, be better,” Mitchell claimed. “It currently being the to start with recreation I consider we know what it usually takes to conquer a very good New York crew. They are quite remarkable. With any luck , we can give them a person on Sunday.”
The Fever dominated on the interior with middle Teaira McCowan main the way with 22 factors and 16 rebounds. Veteran forward Jantel Lavender included 9 details and 10 rebounds in her Fever debut.
Indiana outscored New York 50-to-26 in the paint and experienced a 45-to-28 gain in rebounding, but the Liberty’s sturdy shooting from the outside the house overcame their deficiencies inside. The Liberty shot 13-of-26 from 3, even though the Fever shot just 3-of-18 guiding the line.
“You definitely have to combine in more three balls,” Fever ahead Jessica Breland explained. “Getting the rebounds that we bought, we should have won the game.”
The Fever struggled defending the 3 and they struggled defending the select-and-roll. Laney exploited the Fever’s decide-and-roll protection early, scoring 20 of 30 points in the first 50 percent. Rookie Michaela Onyenwere included 10 of her 18 points in the initial fifty percent as very well.
The Fever do not have a great deal time to dwell on the difficult decline. They are going to vacation house to Indiana to deal with the Liberty aon Sunday.
Observe IndyStar sports activities reporter Akeem Glaspie on Twitter at @THEAkeemGlaspie.