Ionescu hits 3 with 0.4 left, Liberty beat Fever 90-87 in opener

Sports

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) reacts after making the game winning basket against the Indiana Fever during a WNBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

BROOKLYN — Sabrina Ionescu made a 3-pointer from the wing with less than a second remaining to give the New York Liberty a 90-87 victory over the Indiana Fever on Friday night in the WNBA’s season opener.

Ionescu, the former Oregon star who only played in three games last year as a rookie before spraining her ankle, got the ball near the wing and hit the deep shot to give the Liberty the lead with 0.4 seconds left. She finished with 25 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in her Barclays Center debut.

She scored the final eight points for New York, which trailed 86-82 with 39.7 seconds left. The No. 1 draft pick in 2020 hit a 3-pointer from the wing and then made two free throws with 21.8 seconds remaining to tie it at 87.

After a timeout, Indiana worked the clock down before Kelsey Mitchell was called for a traveling violation with 5.8 seconds left setting up Ionescu’s winner with her family watching in the arena.

Betnijah Laney scored 30 points to lead New York and rookie Michaela Onyenwere added 18.

The Liberty were still missing Natasha Howard, who they acquired from Seattle in a trade in the offseason. She is finishing up her overseas season in Italy. New York was also missing Kiah Stokes and Rebecca Allen, who are playing overseas as well.

The Liberty did have Laney, who they signed as a free agent in the offseason. The league’s Most Improved Player last year made her presence felt right away scoring 11 points in the first quarter and had 20 at the half when the game was tied at 47.

New York led by four heading into the fourth quarter, but Indiana used an 11-2 run midway through the final quarter to go up 86-82.

Mitchell finished with 23 points and Teaira McCowan added 22 points and 16 rebounds for Indiana.

The game tipped off the WNBA’s 25th season and was the Liberty’s second regular season game ever at their new home Barclays Center. They played a game against Seattle in the 2019 regular season at the arena.

“Everyone has a little bit of jitters tonight. It’s an exciting time, it’s the 25th year. we’ve invested a lot in this process and our team and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Fever coach Marianne Stanley said before the game. “Once the ball is tossed for the opening tip people will be able to settle in.”

TIP-INS:

New York re-signed forward Joyner Holmes on a hardship contract after cutting her Wednesday. She averaged 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds last year for the Liberty. The move was necessitated as New York was missing Leaonna Odom (Achilles Tendon); Jocelyn Willoughby (Achilles Tendon) as well as Howard, Stokes and Allen.

COMMISSIONER’S CUP

This game was part of the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup. Teams will play games within conference and the franchise with the best record in the East and West will face off on Aug. 12 in a title game. Players on the winning team of that championship game will each earn $30,000.

UP NEXT:

The teams will play again in Indianapolis on Sunday.

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