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Sabrina Ionescu Hits Game-Winning 3 to Give Liberty Win vs. Kelsey Mitchell, Fever

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 15, 2021

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Sabrina Ionescu drilled a game-winning three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to propel the New York Liberty to a 90-87 season-opening win over the visiting Indiana Fever at Barclays Center on Friday.

Ionescu's shot capped an 8-1 game-closing run for the Libs, who were down 86-82 with 47 seconds remaining after Kelsey Mitchell hit a two-pointer.

Ionescu responded with a three before Mitchell hit 1-of-2 from the free-throw line.

The Libs point guard hit two free throws in response, and a traveling call against the Fever gave possession back to New York.

After a timeout, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA draft sent the Libs home as winners.

Ionescu had 25 points and 11 assists. Teammate Betnijah Laney led all scorers with 30 points, and rookie Michaela Onyenwere posted 18 points in her WNBA debut.

Mitchell's 23 points led the Fever, and Teaira McCowan had 22 points and 16 rebounds.


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Notable Performances

New York Liberty G Sabrina Ionescu: 25 points, 11 assists

New York Liberty F Betnijah Laney: 30 points, 5 rebounds

New York Liberty F Michaela Onyenwere: 18 points, 5 rebounds

Indiana Fever C Teaira McCowan: 22 points, 16 rebounds

Indiana Fever G Kelsey Mitchell: 23 points, 4 rebounds

Indiana Fever F Jantel Lavender: 9 points, 10 rebounds


Ionescu Saves Libs at Last Second

"I wanted it."

That's how Ionescu started her postgame interview when asked what was going through her mind on the last Liberty possession:

Some athletes are just built different, and that's the case for Ionescu, who proved to be a cold-blooded killer in just her fourth WNBA game.

A Grade 3 ankle sprain kept Ionescu out for 19-plus games of the 22-game regular season last year. She didn't waste any time making a significant impact in her 2021 season debut, as Matt Ellentuck noted:

Most importantly, her excellent offensive chemistry with her teammates was hard to miss, with Basketball Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo noting the connection between Ionescu and Lacey:

Ionescu masterfully orchestrated the offense, though, getting her 10th assist to center Kylee Shook with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter:

Overall, it was a sensational season debut for Ionescu and the Liberty, one that may foreshadow a playoff push for a team with tremendous offensive potential.

       

Mitchell, McCowan Nearly Lead Fever to Comeback

The Fever may have suffered a disappointing loss, but there were two big positives coming out of this game.

First, McCowan was an absolute machine on the boards, corralling 16 of the Fever's 45 for the night. New York struggled to gain traction on the glass, grabbing just 28.

The difference on the offensive glass was even starker, with the Fever grabbing 19 to the Liberty's three. McCowan and Jantel Lavender had 15 between the two of them.

Lindsay Gibbs of Power Plays noted McCowan's excellent performance:

And Across the Timeline noted the historical impact of McCowan's evening:

Second, Mitchell was sensational, dominating the fourth quarter with 12 points in the final 7:03. She enabled the Fever to go on a 20-9 run that looked like it would be enough to give Indiana the win before Ionescu had other plans.

The left-hander was so smooth that she even got some respect from the Libs' Jazmine Jones following a long-range two-pointer:

 She later hit a big two-pointer to give Indiana an 84-81 edge:

It wasn't meant to be for Indiana on this night, but the McCowan-Mitchell combination should be a forced to be reckoned with all season.

      

What's Next?

The Liberty and Fever will face off again on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Indiana will host the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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