Mercury spoil Ionescu milestone, top Liberty

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) drives on Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner during the second half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 83-82. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — Diamond DeShields scored 25 points, Shey Peddy added 20 and the Phoenix Mercury cruised past the New York Liberty 76-62 on Saturday night, despite missing guards Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Sabrina Ionescu picked up an assist just 29 seconds into the game on a Crystal Dangerfield 3-pointer to become the first player in WNBA history to total at least 200 assists and 200 rebounds as well as 500 points in the same season.

DeShields and Peddy picked up the slack for Diggins-Smith (non-COVID illness) and Taurasi, who missed a second straight game with an ankle injury.

Phoenix (14-19) kept its playoff hopes, moving a half-game ahead of New York for the final playoff spot. The Mercury have three games left, all at home.

New York (13-19) has four games remaining with two at Dallas and then a home-and-home with Atlanta to close out the season.

Sophie Cunningham pitched in with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Mercury.

Ionescu finished with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Liberty. Betnijah Laney returned from meniscus surgery, playing her first game since May 17. She scored seven in just under 21 minutes of action.

New York lost Natasha Howard to an ankle injury in the second half.

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