I do not believe it is time to hit the panic button yet. Yes, it’s clear Sabrina Ionescu hasn’t played at the highest level over the past few games. She’s shot the ball horribly and isn’t playing with the same energy on both ends. Luckily, the play of her teammates has kept the Liberty in competition during their three-game losing streak. In order for New York to get back on track, Sabrina has to be more of a focal point in her team’s success.
Sabrina began the season as one of my favorites to possibly win the MVP award. That may be a reach to many, but the fact that she finally was able to run the floor for New York opened up new opportunities. It all began in the Liberty’s first game against the Indiana Fever, where Sabrina hit a clutch three-pointer to lift her team to a victory. She wasn’t only aggressive in putting the ball in the basket, but she was also gaining the trust of her team to initiate the offense. At that point, the Liberty got off to a 5-1 start and looked to continue to ride momentum going forward.
Where the struggles began
Then May 29 happened against the Atlanta Dream, in which Sabrina looked horrific on the floor. She did happen to have five rebounds in the contest. But a 2-11 shooting afternoon is not a performance that any player wants to have.
The Atlanta Dream went into the game prepared to slow down Sabrina and her ability to put points on the scoreboard. They sent double teams immediately to force the ball out of her hands, which gave her teammates more opportunities on offense. The Dream played a near-perfect game led by a 31 point afternoon by Courtney Williams. If it weren’t for rookie Michaela Onyenwere and Betnijah Laney carrying the load offensively, there’s wouldn’t have been a chance for the Liberty to force overtime in this contest. Williams would hit a clutch three-pointer down the stretch to give the Dream a 90-87 victory.
Fast forward to the Liberty’s next matchup against the Las Vegas Aces. Going up against the runner-ups in the WNBA Finals last season, this should have been a statement game for the Liberty to show their improvements throughout this season. Early in the first quarter, Sabrina was forced to give the ball up after great help defense by A’ja Wilson. From then on, she would become a liability scoring-wise again. Sabrina shot 2-13 from the field with only 5 points in another awful shooting performance.
The best thing that Sabrina portrayed in this game was her ability to keep her teammates involved. When the shot wasn’t falling, it was important that she dished the ball around and secure rebounds. The impact became a big part of New York making their comeback in the second quarter.
There’s nothing to be concerned about with Sabrina Ionescu
Sabrina’s numbers have revolved around 5.3 points per game on 22.3 percent shooting. It’s one thing to not have the ability to knock down perimeter shots. But one area where I would love to watch Sabrina become more aggressive is attacking the rim. With her high IQ along with timing and precision, she can create openings to the basket for high percentage shots.
Sabrina’s attack around the rim could also open more opportunities at the free-throw line as well. The layup package is usually an area player runs to when the shot isn’t falling. Sabrina may be a decoy on offense now, but finding the assertiveness to attack the rim could be an option for the Liberty’s next matchup moving forward.
For basketball casuals, shooting struggles happen on occasion for players. Not every game can be a big scoring night for Sabrina. But she must acknowledge her struggles and figure out how to remain effective. The Liberty have so many weapons that can continue to be utilized tremendously. As Sabrina has a very high usage, it will be her job to continue to orchestrate the offense by getting others involved to provide a spark.
Sabrina Ionescu’ struggles are no concern for me. It’s just a slight three-game skid that she must put behind her to improve. With a player of her caliber, it’s glaring to see that her ineffectiveness nearly allowed her to not become an impactful player. Sooner or later, Sabrina will get out of this funk and return as the player we’ve all grown to love. It is just time for her and the coaching staff to go back and study film to figure out how she can become more aggressive offensively.