NEW YORK (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu scored 25 points and Breanna Stewart added 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to help the New York Liberty beat the Las Vegas Aces 94-85 on Monday night in the final regular-season meeting between the teams.
The Liberty cut the Aces’ lead in the race for the top overall seed in the playoffs to 1 1/2 games, with only a handful left to play. The teams potentially wouldn’t meet again until the WNBA Finals. They split their four regular-season games.
New York (28-7) has won four straight since losing in Las Vegas on Aug. 17.
″(We’re) making sure that we’re all aware that every moment matters,” Stewart said. “We have to make sure we don’t miss opportunities … it’s the experience, it’s having been in these big moments in playoff-type situations, and continuing to build off that.
Las Vegas (30-6) got off to a hot start and led 16-7 with 4 minutes left in the first quarter before New York took over behind Ionescu. The Liberty outscored the Aces 31-10 over the next 11 minutes to go up 38-26 with 3:10 left in the half. New York led 47-35 at the half as Ionescu had 17 points, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 11,615 that showed up for the rare Monday night game.
“The whole game, I felt pretty confident we had good control,” said Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot, who had 17 points and 10 assists. “After our slow start, we picked things up defensively and were scoring in transition. I think we had a really good grasp on the game the entire time.”
A’ja Wilson scored 15 of her 23 points in the first half for Las Vegas. Jackie Young had 24 to lead the Aces.
The Aces never really threatened in the second half as the lead didn’t dip to single digits until Young hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left that made it 90-82.
The game did have a few chippy moments in the second half, with words being exchanged between a few players after a hard foul. Jonquel Jones also got charged with a flagrant one foul after a review for getting entangled with Cayla George.
Stewart and Wilson are two of the favorites to win the league’s MVP award, along with Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas. New York had a custom pizza truck at the arena hyping up Stewart’s MVP credentials, as well as a few other award candidates.
The Aces were finishing off a tiring trip in which they played four games in seven days. That also included a stop at the White House to celebrate their 2022 WNBA championship.
“More than being home, getting some rest,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “This was our 11th game in 23 days. That’s two trips to the East coast. That’s a lot. plus a trip to the White House.”
Hammon said before the game that she considered resting her starters either against Washington or against New York, but the players vetoed the idea.
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