Liberty Guard Sabrina Ionescu's historic WNBA season, in numbers

After a serious ankle injury in her rookie season and a somewhat hesitant second year, Sabrina Ionescu reached in her third year the ki...


After a serious ankle injury in her rookie season and a somewhat hesitant second year, Sabrina Ionescu reached in her third year the kind of heights everyone expected of her, and her freedom is back in the WNBA playoffs.

No. 7 Liberty will face No. 2 Chicago Sky – the defending champions – on Wednesday for the first game of a first-round best-of-three series.

When the Liberty drafted Ionescu No. 1 overall in 2020, hopes were high. The team had been terrible for two seasons, but Ionescu had been a transcendent star in oregonwhere she had a NCAA record 26 triple-doubles. She seemed like the kind of player who could transform a team almost on her own.

In only her second game in the WNBA, she scored 33 points, including six 3-pointers, added 7 rebounds and 7 assists, and thrilled fans going forward.

That future quickly turned sour when, in her third game, she suffered a serious ankle injury that kept her out for the rest of the season.

Without her, and without their veteran star Tina Charleswho had been traded, the team was a disaster, finishing 2-20.

The team bounced back in 2021 and snuck into the playoffsbut it was a group effort led by Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard (after returning from injury), Sami Whitcomb and Michaela Onyenwere, who was named rookie of the year, which pushed them there. Although Ionescu had a full season, his goalscoring game was a bit below what one would expect.

Not that she didn’t help the team, but it was in a more supportive role: despite being among the league’s assist leaders, she averaged only 11.7 points per game and faced persistent ankle pain. She was often the third or fourth scoring option.

But in her third season, Ionescu came forward and she was named to her first All-Star team. She improved in nearly every category, playing more minutes, shooting a higher percentage, and increasing her rebounds, assists, and steals while lowering her turnovers.

Notably, she took on a bigger role in attack, shooting around 14 times per game to lead the team, compared to just under 10 times per game last season, which led her to score a season high. team of 17.4 points per game. Playing in all 36 games helped her rank in the league’s top 10 in points, assists and rebounds, the only player to do so. And his bouncing numbers are particularly impressive since she is Liberty’s main ball handler.

Ionescu also made history in her third season, becoming the first player to record a triple-double in three quarters and, separately, the first player to score at least 30 points in a triple-double. Those two triple-doubles tied her with Chicago’s Candace Parker for the most career triple-doubles, with three.

Ionescu’s step forward, along with Howard’s availability all season, helped the Liberty return to the playoffs and overcome losing Laney for much of the season to a knee injury.

Last season, the Liberty lost their knockout playoff game, 83-82, to the Phoenix Mercury. Ionescu had 14 points and 11 assists, but she missed a desperation 3-pointer from 30 feet at the buzzer that would have won the game.

The team has a chance to rectify that in the first round of the playoffs this year, which will be best-of-three instead of single elimination. But even with Laney back, the odds are long. Eight of the WNBA’s 12 teams advance to the playoffs, leaving room for teams that finished under .500, including Liberty (16-20).

A game against Fort Sky (26-10) with All-Stars such as parkerKahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman, and with the first two games in Chicago, will be tough for the Liberty.

The Liberty is one of the WNBA’s eight founding franchises and the only one still in its hometown that has never won the WNBA title. Its last decade has been particularly fallow, with only one trip to the semifinals or conference finals.

Like any team, the Liberty will need to build talent, draft shrewdly and take a few breaks to transition into championship quality. But more than anything else, they will have to rely on Ionescu to continue playing at the stellar level she has achieved this year. Or preferably, given that she’s still only 24, to get even better.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Liberty Guard Sabrina Ionescu's historic WNBA season, in numbers
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