The 25th WNBA season is five weeks old, and the Pro Ducks trio of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally are all playing different roles for their respective teams than they were in the first week.
Ionescu and the Liberty got off to a blazing start, winning five of their first six games. She scored in double-figures in each of the first six games, averaging 17.8 points and 7.8 assists on 42.3% shooting and 48.6% from three.
Since then, it’s been a rocky road for the former No. 1 overall pick and the Liberty. They lost three straight games, and she averaged 5.3 points and made just 6 of 30 shots during that stretch.
To make matters worse, Ionescu missed the next two games with tendinitis in her left ankle, the same ankle that required surgery after a Grade 3 sprain last season. The Liberty went 1-1 in that stretch, squeaking past the Phoenix Mercury and getting crushed by the Las Vegas Aces.
Ionescu returned to the lineup June 17, coming off the bench and scoring just one point in 15 minutes in another blowout loss to Las Vegas. She never came off the bench in her entire four-year career at Oregon.
She is in the midst of the roughest patch in her young WNBA career, averaging 5.3 points while shooting a miserable 18.8% (9-of-48) from the field in her last six games played. The Liberty are 1-5 in that stretch and 7-7 for the season.
The Liberty and the Sky met Tuesday at Barclays Center for the first of two matchups this week, marking the second time that Ionescu and Hebard faced each other as WNBA opponents. The Sky hammered the Liberty 92-72 to win their sixth straight game and improve to 8-7 on the season.
Ionescu came off the bench once again to put up six points, eight rebounds and seven assists on 1-of-5 shooting, while Hebard recorded eight points and 11 boards off the bench. The former Ducks teammates will meet again Thursday at 4 p.m. PT streaming on Twitter.
The Sky victory avenged their loss to the Liberty in Chicago on May 23 by a score of 93-85. Ionescu bested Hebard in the first matchup, dropping 19 points, 12 assists and five 3-pointers while Hebard logged 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
“It’s really nice to see her continuing to grow from college and continuing to learn the game and honestly growing her game,” Ionescu said of Hebard after the May 23 victory. “It was definitely weird going up against her. It was really nice to be able to talk to her and see her and see how her role with the Chicago team is forming.”
Hebard’s role has changed a bit with the returns of two-time MVP Candace Parker from an ankle injury and starting center Stefanie Dolson from international play. Without Parker and Dolson, Hebard stepped in and started six games, averaging 12.3 points and 8.2 rebounds, but the Sky struggled to win games, going 1-5.
Hebard was moved to the bench once Dolson returned, but the Sky lost the next two games with Hebard on the bench. They started 2-0 to begin the season and lost the next seven games.
Parker returned on June 9, and the Sky rattled off six straight wins to bring their record to 8-7 going into their second matchup with the Liberty.
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Sabally spent the first couple of weeks of the WNBA season playing internationally, and she returned to the WNBA stage with a bang. She scored 18 points and hit a game-tying jumper with 6.9 seconds left to send the Wings to overtime against the defending champion Seattle Storm.
She also had a big performance in a win over Phoenix on June 11, putting up 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists. The 2020 WNBA All-Rookie Team selection followed that up with a season-high 24-point performance in a loss to Las Vegas.
Sabally and the Wings sit at 6-8 and have lost three of their last four. She is averaging 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 42.2% from the field and 34.6% from deep through her first eight appearances.
You can catch Sabally and Hebard go head-to-head for two games in Arlington, Texas, on June 30 and July 2 on CBS Sports Network (both games at 5 p.m. PT). The Wings will then head to Brooklyn, New York, on Monday July 5, as Sabally will face Ionescu and the Liberty at 4 p.m. PT on Facebook.
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