Jones, Ionescu lead Liberty back from 20 down

Jazmine Jones came off the bench at a 100 energy level and never let up taking hard fouls, charging into the bench for a loose ball and hitting big shots to help lead the New York Liberty back from a 20-point deficit against the Washington Mystics on Saturday. 

The Liberty came back to edge the Mystics, 82-79, in the first of two wild afternoon games in the WNBA. The Indiana Fever followed it up within the hour with a surprising 73-67 victory over MVP leader Jonquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun. It is the Fever’s second win of the season. 

Jones flies into bench, flips over railing 

Late into the third, hustled after a loose ball while running at the Mystics’ bench. She couldn’t corral it to get it back in bounds and her energy took her body over the bench, to the back railing and over it. 

It was a scary moment as security and personnel ran toward her, but she popped right back up, unfazed, and stepped over the scorer’s table to return to play. 

She came back the following possession and drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10 with under two minutes in the third quarter. The following trip down she took a foul and hit both free throws to bring it within eight. 

Jones scored seven points in the fourth quarter, none larger than her ability to get to the line and hit every one of those shots. She finished with 17 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in 21 minutes off the bench. She went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and made all seven free throws. 

Liberty come back from 20 down

New York (9-9) trailed early at went into the half down, 51-33. But the Mystics (7-10) have played with a short bench recently because of injuries and waived players to get under the salary cap. 

The Liberty came within five a few times in the final 10 minutes. At the 4:10 mark, Sabrina Ionescu cleared the floor to drive for a layup to cut it to two. After Jones brought down a defensive rebound, Ionescu hit a 24-foot 3-pointer from the right side to give New York its first lead, 76-75, since 8-7 three minutes into the contest. 

The sides traded leads, and fouls, in the final minutes. Ionescu assisted Reshanda Gray on two layups to match two by the Mystics’ Tina Charles. It gave the Liberty a 80-79 lead ahead of a messy final 1:13. 

Gray fouled out, Charles missed two more free throws, adding to a missed technical minutes prior, and each team was called for a turnover foul on final possessions. Betnijah Laney’s free throws at 1.6 closed a 26-13 final quarter by the Liberty and sealed the surprise victory. 

Laney led the Liberty with 19 points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal. Ionescu scored 15 on 6-for-7 shooting, missing only one of four 3-pointers, and adding five rebounds and five assists. It’s a solid outing over 26 minutes since she hasn’t been up to her high caliber in recent games after ankle tendinitis. 

Gray and Rookie of the Year leading candidate Michaela Onyenwere had 11 points. Didi Richards, the defensive standout from Baylor who suffered a spinal injury last fall, left the game after a scary fall and was ruled out with a neck sprain. 

Charles most of Mystics offense 

The Mystics continued to rely on center Charles, who will play for Team USA later this month. Charles had 31 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and two steals and was 40 percent of the team’s scoring. 

The veteran is only the second player in history to hit those marks, joining Candace Parker who did it in 2008 and 2012. She now has seven 30-point games this season while the rest of the league has 14 combined per Her Hoop Stats.

The level of play around her has become the concern while players like Natasha Cloud and Elena Delle Donne remain out. The Mystics were 5-for-24 (20.8%) from the 3-point line and 10-for-16 (62.5%) from the free throw line. That included Charles’ uncharacteristic 5-for-8 mark. 

No other Washington player hit double digits. Ariel Atkins, who is also on Team USA, scored nine on 3-for-9 shooting and added four assists. Sydney Wiese had nine off the bench. 

Fever shock Sun for win No. 2

Danielle Robinson scored 19 and Tiera McCowan added 13 points and 12 rebounds off the bench to send the Fever (2-16) to their second win of the season, ending the long 12-game losing skid. 

Kelsey Mitchell scored 14 points in a tight one. The Fever trailed, 29-28, at half but put up a 24-17 third quarter and kept it even in the fourth to eek it out. 

Jones, who played a condensed schedule for her Bosnian national team at Eurobasket last month, was playing in only her second game back with the Sun (12-6). She was dominant in the first meeting on Thursday played 48 hours after she arrived back in the states, but wasn’t herself in this one. The Sun have four games in seven days. 

Jones shot 5-for-17 overall and had 16 points and nine rebounds. DeWanna Bonner scored 14 with seven rebound and four assists. Brionna Jones, named to her first WNBA All-Star game, had 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Natisha Hiedeman scored 12 of the Sun’s 20 points off the bench. 

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