NEW YORK (AP) — With their season on the line, Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney took over to help New York even their playoff series with Connecticut.
Ionescu scored 21 points and Laney added 20, including a key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, to help the Liberty beat the Sun 84-77 on Tuesday night to knot their playoff semifinal series 1-1.
"Understanding what's at stake. We knew we had to win this game," Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. "Win on our home court. you could see a very connected team today."
Game 3 is Friday night in Connecticut.
New York led 59-57 to start the fourth quarter before the team went on a 13-5 run to start the period. Breanna Stewart, who was having a rough offensive night hours after she was honored as the WNBA's MVP, hit her first 3-pointer of the series to cap the spurt and give the Liberty a 72-62 advantage. Stewart had missed her first 11 3s in the opening two games. She finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and five blocks but missed 10 of her 13 shots from the field.
Connecticut was able to get within striking distance a few times after that, but Laney answered with key 3-pointers. Her second one made it 80-70 with 2:55 left. Laney was coming off a rough Game 1 where she had just three points.
The Sun scored five straight to make one final push, trailing 80-75 with 1:43 left before Ionescu hit two free throws and then got a steal on the next possession to seal the win.
"We played within ourselves, battled for 40 minutes and we had to weather the storm," Ionescu said. "B hit huge shots for us. Slooty hit huge slots for us. Stewie hit a huge one as well. Everyone made the plays that helped us win the game."
Tiffany Hayes scored 30 points and DeWanna Bonner added 19 to lead Connecticut.
"We came here and got a split, now we have the opportunity to go home," Connecticut coach Stephanie White said.