Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty celebrates after scoring a basket...

Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty celebrates after scoring a basket against the Seattle Storm during their game at Barclays Center on Monday. Credit: Errol Anderson

The Liberty’s starting five had looked like an even more cohesive five after a 40-game regular season, a postseason that ended in the WNBA Finals and this past full training camp together, and the team pulled off a clean sweep of its first three games.

But now came the Liberty’s fourth game in the span of a week, just like for Seattle, and this wasn’t such a smooth ride for them Monday night at Barclays Center.

They weren’t at their offensive finest, making only 41.3% of their shots, including 3-for-23 on threes, and turning the ball over 18 times. Good thing for them their defense still managed to rule. They also got 20 points and eight assists from Sabrina Ionescu on the way to beating the Storm, 74-63.

So make it 4-0 — the Liberty’s best start since 2007.

“They were tired; we were tired, four games in seven days to start the season,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “But sometimes on any given night, someone else can step up for us. And Sabrina was the one giving us that energy tonight, getting downhill, making some shots.

“ . . . Overall, I’m happy with her defense; I’m happy with our defense, because we found a way to win ugly.”

Breanna Stewart contributed three steals and two blocks to go with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jonquel Jones had 16 points and eight rebounds, including career No. 2,000, plus two blocks.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 13 points and finished at plus-16, her fourth straight game above plus-15 to open the season, a WNBA record.

Jewell Loyd shot just 5-for-17 and scored 13 points and Skylar Diggins-Smith shot 3-for-13 and had eight points for the now 1-3 Storm, who were missing eight-time All-Star forward Nneka Ogwumike because of an ankle injury.

The Liberty held Seattle to 34.3% shooting — 25% on threes — and forced 17 turnovers.

“We’re trying to hang our hat on defense,” Brondello said. “We know that’s an area we need to get better at.”

They actually looked sharp at both ends in the first quarter en route to a 27-15 lead.

They stalled in the second quarter, scoring just nine points. But Seattle also scored just nine. So it was 36-24 at halftime.

“The ball was getting stuck a lot,” Stewart said. “We weren’t able to flow through anything or move it to multiple sides.”

The ball got unstuck in the third.

Jones spun inside for two and Stewart followed with a three-point play to make it 44-28 2:09 into the period.

After Ionescu drove for two and then nailed a three, it was 57-40 with 1:39 remaining in the quarter.

“They have firepower at every position,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said.

The Liberty took a 60-45 cushion into the fourth. Seattle could only get as close as nine from there.

“Ultimately, it’s about us and how we play and what we want to do,” Jones said. “We know if we kind of execute the game plan . . . we can beat any team in this league.”



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