WNBA: Ionescu's historic triple-double lifts Liberty, Mercury rout Mystics

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at May 19 2021 10:40 AM

WNBA: Ionescu's historic triple-double lifts Liberty, Mercury rout Mystics 1
Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty high-fives teammates during the game against the Minnesota Lynx on May 18, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Steven Freeman, NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

Sabrina Ionescu became the youngest player in WNBA history to record a triple-double as she led the New York Liberty to an 86-75 WNBA win over the visiting Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.

Ionescu, 23, collected 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for the first triple-double in Liberty history. It was just the 10th ever triple-double in the WNBA.

New York improved to 3-0, already exceeding last year's win total. The Liberty went 2-20 in 2020.

Betnijah Laney added 20 points, Sami Whitcomb scored 13 and Kylee Shook had 10 for New York. The Liberty canned 12 of 27 3-point attempts and cut their turnovers from 12 in the first half to four after halftime.

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Sylvia Fowles scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to pace Minnesota, which got 16 points from Kayla McBride and 12 from Jessica Shepard. However, the Lynx fell to 0-2 because they made only 11 of 34 field-goal attempts in the second half.

Minnesota trailed just 69-65 after a Shepard put-back with 6:05 left in the game, but New York put it away with nine consecutive points in less than a minute -- all on 3-pointers. Whitcomb, Ionescu and Michaela Onyenwere connected from long range for a 78-65 cushion with 4:42 remaining.

The Lynx weren't able to overcome that run, thanks to poor shooting from the arc. They were only 3 of 23 from 3-point range for the game.

New York had the early bounce, ripping off 15 straight points in a span of just 2:46. Laney capped the run with a pull-up jumper for a 15-4 advantage, and the Liberty withstood a Minnesota burst to take a 23-21 edge into the second quarter.

Ionescu canned a 3-pointer at the 6:02 mark of the second to make it 31-26 New York, but the Lynx ate into the deficit and erased it by pounding inside to Fowles. She scored nine points in less than 4 1/2 minutes, helping her team to a 45-43 lead at halftime.

The Liberty tightened up considerably on defense in the third quarter, limiting Minnesota to 10 points. Laney's 3-pointer with 5:16 left put New York ahead for good, and the Liberty expanded the margin to 62-55 heading to the fourth period.

-- Mercury hand Mystics 2nd straight loss -- 

Diana Taurasi scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and the Phoenix Mercury never trailed on their way to a 91-70 victory over the host Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.

Brittney Griner added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Mercury, who finished their season-opening road trip 2-1. The Mystics dropped their second straight game to start the year.

Six Phoenix players scored in double figures. Kia Nurse and reserve Sophie Cunningham each contributed 12, Brianna Turner posted 10 points and 14 boards, and Skylar Diggins-Smith added 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Mystics big Tina Charles led all scorers with 22 points and added with 12 rebounds. Natasha Cloud scored 18 points, and Ariel Atkins posted 12.

The Mercury outscored the Mystics 47-33 for the second half after Washington kept things tight in the early going.

The Mercury scored the game's first eight points, forcing Washington coach Mike Thibault to call an early timeout. The decision paid off, as the Mystics ripped off the next eight points. Washington trailed by just three after the first quarter and by seven at halftime.

The Mystics didn't make their first 3-pointer until halfway through the second quarter and finished 5 of 28 (17.9 percent) from beyond the arc. The Mercury made 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) from long range.

In the third quarter, Cloud hit a 3-pointer and Leilani Mitchell nabbed a steal on the ensuing inbounds pass to lead to a Cloud layup that cut the deficit to 50-46.

However, after Charles made one free throw, a 19-8 Phoenix run opened things up in the middle of the third quarter, and the Mercury held a 69-57 advantage after three.

For a second straight game, the Mystics played without Elena Delle Donne. The two-time WNBA MVP is taking a slow and steady approach to returning to action as she recovers from a 2020 back surgery.

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