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Still waiting on a full-strength Sabrina Ionescu, Liberty struggle in another loss to Sky

Sabrina Ionescu, with just two points and five

Sabrina Ionescu, with just two points and five assists, is defended by Sky's Courtney Vandersloot in Thursday night at Barclays Center. Credit: Steven Ryan

The wait will continue for Sabrina Ionescu to be that shotmaking threat again and that potential triple-double waiting to happen for the Liberty, like in May when she became the youngest in WNBA history to own one.

That was before her left ankle became a problem again. Ionescu’s rookie season ended after three games because of a severe sprain, and she ultimately needed surgery. She sat out the first two games on the recent four-game western trip with tendinitis before coming off the bench in the last four, including Thursday night against Chicago at Barclays Center.

Ionescu didn’t play much nor do much in this latest game. But it was a struggle at both ends for the team as a whole. The superior Sky ran away with their seventh straight win, 91-68.

Chicago (9-7), which was led by Kahleah Copper and Diamond DeShields with 18 points apiece, swept the two-game series, outscoring the Liberty by 43. The Liberty, paced by Michaela Onyenwere’s 16, have lost seven of their last nine to drop to 7-8.

"It’s a focus thing," Sami Whitcomb said.

It’s an injury thing, too. Besides Natasha Howard being out, the point guard is compromised, playing hurt, when she’s playing.

Ionescu appeared for just 13:04 and missed her two shots, making her 3-for-20 since her return. The 2020 top overall pick contributed only two points, five assists and two rebounds.

Coach Walt Hopkins said offensively "she can kind of get by on one leg." He’s looking for ways defensively for her "to handle some of the pain and the ability to really burst off of that leg."

"I know she’s giving us everything she can," Hopkins said. "She’s just a warrior."

Hopkins said rest won’t cure it, that the Liberty will have to manage it. But he also said she will be returning to the starting lineup "in the near future."

His league-worst team in turnovers committed just two in the first quarter and trailed 18-14. The Liberty then committed two in the first minute of the second quarter and finished with 21, leading to 18 points.

The Sky opened that quarter with an 11-3 run, which began with a DeShields three-point play and ended with her right-side three for a 29-17 lead.

After Betnijah Laney’s jumper cut it to 35-25, Chicago floored it. DeShields buried another three to launch a 20-2 closing run that made it 55-27 at halftime. The margin reached 30 early in the third.

The Liberty went 4-for-25 from beyond the arc.

Hopkins said that "the execution of what we do has really slipped … I think we’re all frustrated."

New York Sports