Liberty’s Ionescu scores late 3-pointer to end Sky’s 6-game win streak

Sabrina Ionescu’s three-point play with 9.7 seconds left lifted New York to an 83-80 win over the Chicago Sky on Saturday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

Trailing 80-78 with 19 seconds left, Ionescu took the ball and drove the lane where she was fouled by Rebekah Gardner. Ionescu, who finished with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, converted the free throw to give New York (10-17) the lead.

“That’s a big win for us to snap a five-game losing streak,” Ionescu said. “Sometimes seeing a win is all you need to get a spark and win a game. We have a lot more games left. We’ll continue to get better and not stress about what seed we are.”

Chicago (21-7) got the ball but Candace Parker missed a shot in the lane with just over 2 seconds left. After Michaela Onyenwere hit two free throws, the Sky had one last chance, but Emma Meesseman’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

The loss ended the Sky’s six-game winning streak.

“That’s the play we wanted,” Chicago coach James Wade said of Parker’s shot. “Nine times out of 10 she makes it.”

Parker finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Sky, who were playing the second-half of a back-to-back. The veteran moved into fourth place on the league’s all-time rebounding list, breaking a tie with Tamika Catchings. Parker now has 3,327 rebounds in her career.

Chicago, which already has wrapped up a playoff berth, played Friday night at home before traveling to New York on Saturday morning. The Sky’s flight was delayed because of storms and got them in to New York around noon.

They trailed 69-59 early in the fourth quarter before the Sky went on a 13-2 run to take a 72-71 lead on Parker’s putback with 3:11 left.

The teams traded the lead over the next two minutes. New York trailed 79-78 with 19 seconds left when Parker made the second of two free throws.

Ionescu then gave New York the lead for good.

The game also featured a match-up between Chinese players Han Xu of New York and Li Yueru of Chicago. The game was televised live in China. Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang was in attendance as well as WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and the head of NBA China Michael Ma.

Han finished with 12 points while Li didn’t score in four minutes of play.

Aces blitz Sparks in 2d half to clinch playoff spot

Kelsey Plum hit four 3-pointers and finished with 29 points and A’ja Wilson scored 28 to help the Las Vegas Aces beat the Los Angeles Sparks 84-66 Saturday night and clinch a playoff spot.

Las Vegas (20-8) has won five of its last six games and is one game back of league-leading Chicago, the defending WNBA champion and the only other team to have clinched a 2022 postseason berth.

Jackie Young added 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Aces and Chelsea Gray scored 10 points.

Wilson scored the first seven points and Plum the final four in an 11-0 run that made it 57-53 late in the third quarter and Las Vegas led the rest of the way. Jordin Canada scored to cut the Sparks’ deficit to two points about 2 minutes into the fourth but Riquna Williams and Wilson scored five points apiece in a 10-0 spurt that made it 69-57 midway through the period. The Aces led by at least nine points the rest of the way.

Chennedy Carter led the Sparks (12-15) with 15 points. Canada and Liz Cambage scored 11 points apiece and Nneka Ogwumike and Katie Lou Samuelson each scored 10.

Plum and Williams hit 3-pointers to bookend an 8-0 spurt that gave Las Vegas a 16-6 lead midway through the first quarter but the Sparks scored 16 of the next 21 points to take their first lead when Carter made two free throws with 29.4 seconds left in the period.

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