Sabrina Ionescu and Jonquel Jones help the New York Liberty beat the Phoenix Mercury 81-78

NEW YORK (AP) — With the game in the balance, Jonquel Jones took over.

Jones scored 10 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the New York Liberty beat the Phoenix Mercury 81-78 on Wednesday night.

The Liberty’s star center spent most of the first few quarters outside of the paint, but made a concerted effort to get inside in the fourth.

“We had a different level of intentionality with me getting it down there,” Jones said. “Giving me time to post up and really seal, but ultimately it was a mindset shift from me and my teammates.”

New York (5-2) trailed 74-71 late in the fourth quarter before going on a 9-0 run, including four points by Jones to take control.

Her layup with 2:12 left started the spurt and she hit two free throws with 1:09 left that gave New York a 76-74 lead. After a stop, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton hit a tough foul line jumper with 30 seconds left giving the Liberty a four-point cushion.

Phoenix (3-4) couldn’t recover.

Sabrina Ionescu led New York with 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Natasha Cloud scored 21 points and Kahleah Copper added 20 for the Mercury.

“We know we’re never out of games, we don’t want to get ourselves in a hole,” Copper said. “We have competitors and fighters and we never got rattled when we got down. I’m proud of how we fought back and wish the outcome was different.”

Phoenix was down 60-59 after three quarters before Diana Taurasi hit consecutive 3-pointers to open the fourth and give the Mercury a five-point lead — its biggest of the game to that point. New York then scored the next nine points, including five by Jones, to go up 69-65.

The Mercury then had their own 9-2 run, including five points by Copper to go up 74-71 with 2:42 left.

New York jumped out to a 19-6 lead behind hot 3-point shooting. The Liberty made five of their first seven from behind the arc. They led 33-20 after the first quarter. Phoenix was looking to rebound from an awful shooting night on Tuesday in Connecticut. The Mercury were 1 of 27 from 3-point range in that 70-47 loss. They hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter on Wednesday.

Phoenix stormed back behind Cloud to get within 47-44 at the half. Cloud had three of the Mercury’s seven 3-pointers in the first half. The Mercury finished 10-for-30 from behind the 3-point arc.


Brittney Griner has missed the start of the season with a broken toe on her left foot. She did get some work in before the game on the court and told the AP she’s progressing.

Coach Nate Tibbetts said before the game that Griner was out of a boot.

“I think it’s been good mentally to get out of the boot,” Tibbetts said. “Every day we’re getting closer, and I know she can’t wait and we can’t wait.”


Mercury: Phoenix closes out its three-game road trip with a game in Minnesota on Friday night.

Liberty: New York hosts Washington on Friday night in the middle game of a three-game homestand.



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