Natasha Cloud won the battle.
Sabrina Ionescu won the game, and the war.
After Washington’s Cloud had promised the Liberty a “rude awakening” and vowing to stop Ionescu (“Starting from tip. I’m in Sabrina’s ass”), the trash-talking point guard backed up her words with the game of her career.
But it didn’t matter.
The Liberty still came out on top 90-85 in overtime at Barclays Center to win their first-round playoff series 2-0, after which Cloud had to give Ionescu a congratulatory hug.
“It definitely got spicy,” Breanna Stewart conceded. “There was some missed calls, some no-calls, things like that. Both teams want to win. [Liberty forward Betnijah Laney] got a tech. But that’s playoff basketball.”
Cloud poured in a career-high 33 points and harassed Ionescu — who had 29 points in Game 1 — to just 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting.
“I was going to be villain, and I was going to be a dog, and I was gonna stay on Sabrina for as much as I could. It is what it is,” said Cloud.
“I can be a villain. I say what I want, I say it with my chest, and that can sometimes reflect badly.”
The Liberty’s answer for Cloud’s defense was taking the ball out of Ionescu’s and Courtney Vandersloot’s hands late.
They ran the offense through Stewart, who had six of her 27 points in OT, when they outscored the Mystics 14-9.
“I knew I talked s–t, and I know I was in Sabrina’s stuff and I know I took a few hard fouls on her,” Cloud said. “Even though I take that villain role in the game, I have a lot of respect for who Sabrina is, what she is to our league, who she is as a player. Iron sharpens iron, and that’s what I said to her.
“I really do respect her as a player, enough that I had to make her my primary focus in Game 2. But I just wanted to make sure I said that because everyone loves [WNBA] beef. But I talked my s–t and I had to come in and cash that deposit that I made.”