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Natasha Howard, Sabrina Ionescu power Liberty past Mercury

Sportsnaut
May 9, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; A general view of the game ball during the preseason WNBA game between the New York Liberty and the China National Team at Barclays Center.  Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Natasha Howard’s 23 points and 12 rebounds led the New York Liberty to a runaway 89-69 victory over the visiting Phoenix Mercury on Sunday afternoon.

The Liberty (11-18) never trailed and led by as many as 21 points.

New York guard Sabrina Ionescu nearly picked up a triple-double, recording 10 points, eight rebounds and a single-game franchise record of 16 assists. The previous record was held by Teresa Weatherspoon and Cappie Pondexter, who both had 14 in a game.

Liberty guards Rebecca Allen and Crystal Dangerfield each added 17 points, making a combined seven of 10 3-pointers.

The Liberty took a 59-50 lead into the fourth quarter and opened the period with a 20-8 run to put the game out of reach, with Howard and Ionescu combining for 13 points in that stretch. Howard went 10 for 13 from the field on the afternoon.

The Mercury (13-17) struggled to get into a rhythm offensively, shooting 38 percent from the field. Forward Sophie Cunningham scored 21, and four others scored in double figures. Guard Skylar Diggins-Smith recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists.

Phoenix recorded zero bench points.

In contrast, New York was on fire offensively, making 49.3 percent of its shots. The Liberty went 12 for 26 from deep, assisted on 32 of 35 baskets and outrebounded Phoenix 42-26 on the glass.

With the win, New York moves within 1 1/2 games of the final playoff spot with seven games left to play.

The Mercury remain in the playoff picture but need to finish the season strong to clinch a spot in the postseason. Back-to-back games at third-place Connecticut are next on the schedule.

New York will continue its three-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Liberty and Mercury will play Saturday in Phoenix for their final meeting of the season.

–Field Level Media