New York Liberty: 3 stars from Friday’s loss at Indiana

A hard-luck travel saga brought about by inclement weather gave way to a tough loss for the New York Liberty on Friday in Indianapolis.

Facing an Indiana Fever squad whose jerseys resembled the aesthetic from the Netflix series Stranger Things, the New York Liberty got trapped in the Upside Down before they made it to Hawkins.

Behind 18 points each from Kelsey Mitchell and Danielle Robinson, the Fever (3-16) earned consecutive wins for the first time this season, topping the Liberty by an 82-69 final at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Friday night. New York (10-10) only arrived in Indianapolis hours before game time, as their Thursday flight out was canceled due to heavy rains. The Liberty scored 28 points in the first quarter in building a five-point lead but struggled from there on out, dropping back to .500 and ending a brief two-game winning streak.

Despite the loss, the Liberty did take two of three meetings from the Fever this season. New York will wrap up its pre-Olympic break slate on Sunday afternoon at home against Connecticut (2 p.m. ET, YES/ESPN3)

ESM has three silver linings in defeat…

3rd Star: Sami Whitcomb

10 points, 5 rebounds

Though it was a tough shooting day for Whitcomb (4-of-11 from the field), she did receive some good news in the midst of the Liberty odyssey. She is set to join Betnijah Laney in Las Vegas for the All-Star Game festivities, competing against former Seattle teammate Jewell Loyd, as well as Jonquel Jones and Allie Quigley, in the exhibition’s three-point competition. Whitcomb leads the league with 55 successful triples.

2nd Star: Kylee Shook

13 points, 6 rebounds

Teaming up with Reshanda Gray to hold notable Liberty killer Teaira McCowan in relative check (6-of-13 FG), Shook earned a new career-best in scoring. If anything, the Liberty’s rebounding efforts against Indiana can be commended. After getting outgained 45-28 on the glass in their first meeting, the Liberty won Friday’s battle by a 38-32 tally. Alas, turnovers proved to be the difference, as New York lost the ball 20 times.

1st Star: Betnijah Laney

23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists

Laney reached her customary 20 points under less than ideal circumstances, but she did provide a quantum of revenge to one of her many former employers. Though Indiana cracked down on her for the remainder of the game (a task made all the more difficult by the loss of Bec Allen to Australia’s Olympic prep), the Liberty’s early surge was fueled by 13 early points from their All-Star representative. New York is 7-5 when Laney reaches at least 20 points.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three Stars from the New York Liberty’s win vs Indiana

sabrina ionescu, New York Liberty

Sabrina Ionescu kicked off the WNBA’s 25th season with a bang, hitting the game-winning in the New York Liberty’s 90-87 win over Indiana.

Sabrina Ionescu made a legendary Barclays Center debut, sinking a game-winning three-pointer with 0.4 seconds to go in a 90-87 triumph over the Indiana Fever. The Liberty (1-0) own a winning record for the first time since September 2017.

3rd Star: Michaela Onyenwere

18 points (6-12 FG), 5 rebounds

Onyenwere set a team rookie record by scoring 18 points in her first WNBA contest. She also didn’t hesitate to throw her body around in the paint, gaining five rebounds including one of only three on the offensive glass. Her first basket, a deep triple just over a minute in, opened scoring for the 2021 WNBA season as a whole, kickstarting her historic evening.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

30 points (11-18 FG, 4-5 3-pt. FG), 5 rebounds

If she keeps things going at this torrid pace, the Most Improved Player from the WNBA’s Floridian endeavor might change that I to a V. Laney, perhaps inspired by battling a Fever team that cut her shortly before the bubbled season began (though she mostly denied such a notion), got things going early with 16 first-half points, having apparently brought her newfound sharpshooting abilities back from Florida with her.

1st Star: Sabrina Ionescu

25 points (7-18 FG, 4-8 3-pt. FG), 11 assists, 6 rebounds

Sabrina Ionescu sinking the game-winning basket in the Liberty’s first game in Brooklyn while kicking off the WNBA’s 25th anniversary season? A Hollywood studio would kick you to the curb for the lack of subtlety and nuance. But Ionescu reintroduced herself to the basketball world in downright magical fashion, sinking the game-winning triple with 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock. Ionescu got off to a slow start, being held scoreless in the first quarter and hit only one of her first six attempts. But she more than made up for it with a stellar second half, scoring 18 points including a triple that will go down as the early best moment of the Walt Hopkins era to date.

The Liberty return to action on Sunday afternoon, finishing off a home-and-home with Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (2 p.m. ET, CBSSN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags