The 2020 New York Liberty will play their first game sans Sabrina in a nationally televised contest against the Phoenix Mercury.
The post-Ionescu era begins now.
With an ankle sprain sidelining Sabrina Ionescu, the New York Liberty’s 2020 season in the Bradenton bubble nonetheless presses on. The first full Ionescu-free experience comes on Sunday afternoon when the Liberty battle the Phoenix Mercury (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).
New York (0-3) actually held their own against the Atlanta Dream on Friday night after the top overall pick’s forced departure. They overcame a deficit as high as 14 points and took the Dream to the brink before Atlanta free throws sealed the deal in an 84-78 final. Jazmine Jones led a scoring effort that featured 60 points from Liberty rookies, setting an early career-best with 20 in the second game of her career.
“We have a mindset, all the rookies especially, that when we get in the game, just run up and down the court, be relentless, be tough,” Jones said after the game. “We’re very talented from top to bottom. In our heads, we feel like we have the better bench per se, because we have a lot of rookies that can play multiple positions. It’s just fun that we have this kind of team, that the coaches can put us in different kinds of alignments to be successful.”
Phoenix (1-2) earned their first win of the season later on Friday night, topping the Las Vegas Aces 102-95. Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 22 points each and combined for 16-of-23 shooting. Ex-Liberty guard Bria Hartley put up 15 points off the bench, two days after she tallied a career-high 26 in a loss to Indiana.
The Mercury took two of three meetings from the Liberty last season, though New York stole an 80-76 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena in July. Kia Nurse rose to the occasion with 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Nurse also sank all six of her free throw attempts. This will also be the first time the Liberty battle Hartley as an opponent since the North Babylon, NY native signed with Phoenix this offseason. Hartley spent the past three seasons in New York, coming over in a January 2017 trade that also involved Seattle and Washington.
Nurse, recovering from an ankle sprain of her own, is listed as probable for Sunday’s contest. Friday night was the first game she missed in her three-year career.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags