Sabrina Ionescu was meeting the press outside the Liberty locker room Thursday night after they had rallied for a victory and she had made history. She was talking about Stefanie Dolson when Ionescu spotted the veteran backup center on her way out.
“Stef, are you still hot?” Ionescu yelled out. “Are you still hot?”
“Shut up,” Dolson shot back playfully.
The Liberty fell into a 14-point hole in the first half against Los Angeles at Barclays Center, but they crawled out behind Dolson’s very hot shooting. She couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, going 5-for-5 for her 15 second-half points.
They beat L.A., 96-89, for their eighth straight win with one game left before they step into the postseason and chase the franchise’s first championship.
This also marked their fourth comeback victory from at least 14 points down.
“I think it shows what we’re capable of doing,” Ionescu said. “When we get in the playoffs and we get into a situation like that, it’s not going to be new to us.”
Breanna Stewart finished with 25 points. Betnijah Laney added 20 points and seven assists. Dolson scored a season-high 17. And Ionescu had 16, including four threes.
Her second one gave her 122, breaking Diana Taurasi’s WNBA single-season record set in 2006.
“It’s an honor any time you're able to pass arguably the greatest basketball player to have played in the WNBA,” Ionescu said. “… I’m super happy and proud, but obviously there’s more to do, and I should’ve done it sooner.”
The Liberty are on 14-1 and 22-3 runs, and stand at 32-7 overall. They appear bound for the second seed behind Las Vegas even though they’re just a half-game back.
The Sparks, meanwhile, fell to 16-23, dropping a half-game back of Chicago for the eighth and final playoff pass.
“Of course, you want to win,” forward Dearica Hamby said. “… But this was more of a foundation year. So I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed if we fall a little bit short.”
Los Angeles, which was topped by Layshia Clarendon’s 30 points, saw its lead shrink to five after three. Then Dolson hit back-to-back threes.
Suddenly, it was 75-74 Liberty with 8:32 to go.
The Sparks went back up by three. But Dolson countered with consecutive threes again, and it was 81-78 Liberty. They were on their way. Kayla Thornton buried a three and then Ionescu did as well — 92-82, 3:31 remaining.
“I’m just happy that I can be that spark off the bench,” Dolson said.
The Liberty, who went 17-for-34 on threes, trailed, 42-28, in the second quarter.
“I think we just played soft, honestly,” Jonquel Jones said.
But they cut it to 50-43 by halftime. Then they fell behind by 13 in the third before making their push behind Dolson, who returned Aug. 11 after missing 17 games with an ankle problem.
“She’s coming back from injury,” coach Sandy Brondello said. “But she’s such a key player for us this season as we move into the playoffs.”