Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty, right, gets pressured on defense by...

Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty, right, gets pressured on defense by Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky during a WNBA game at Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: James Escher

Conceptually, rebuilds always sound great.

Replace old with new. Discard expensive for cost-controlled.

What’s rarely factored in are the inevitable growing pains. Like the one the Liberty experienced in their 88-86 to the Chicago Sky Sunday at Barclays Center.

“It hurts now that we lost,” said Stefanie Dolson after Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot drilled a three-pointer from the left side of the arc with 1.6 seconds remaining to stun the Liberty.

“There are things that we did . . . mistakes that we won’t make again,” Dolson said. “You have a lot of learning games in the beginning and by the end you know how to win these games.”

The most frustrating aspect for the Liberty? They more than hung with the defending WNBA champions. The Liberty shot better from the field (47.8% compared to 46.1%), shot better from three-point range (47.8% compared to 33.3%), led after the first three quarters, and had the best player on the court author a brilliant performance.

Sabrina Ionescu recorded her second WNBA career triple double with a game-high 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

But the result left her in no mood to talk about her accomplishment.

“I don’t care about the triple double,” Ionescu said. “We didn’t win.”

The Liberty (5-9) came into the second of four regular-season matchups against the Sky (9-4) having won two straight and four of their last five, which coach Sandy Brondello believes is a sign of her group’s growth. But, as she noted during her pregame availability with reporters, the Sky would serve as a measuring stick for the Liberty, Brondello said. The Sky drubbed the Liberty, 83-50,  on May 11 in Chicago.

What was revealed over the course of 40 minutes is that the skilled, talented Liberty are at their best when they are attacking.

Take, for instance, a sequence before the end of the first half. Marine Johannes drove into the lane and was met by two Sky defenders, only to whip a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Dolson standing alone at the top of the three-point line. Dolson’s three-pointer splashed through the net as the 4,810 in attendance and her teammates marveled at the pass.

“I knew I had to make it,” Dolson said. “You can’t mess up a play like that.”

But the Liberty’s inexperience haunted them in the fourth quarter. Chicago outscored them 29-21 in the final 10 minutes to turn a 65-59 deficit into a two-point win.


Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months