Liberty provides first test as Sky sets sights on second trophy
The Chicago Sky had a regular season to remember but now it’s a brand new slate: playoffs.
The defending champions drew the No. 2 seed and will host the No. 7 seed in the New York Liberty on Wednesday, Aug. 17th for a best-of-3 series in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.
“We’re focused on the next one,” head coach James Wade said. “We do have a sense of, ‘we know what it takes,’ but we’re really focused on what we have to do to get this next trophy. I think we’re just as hungry [as last season].”
Chicago took the regular season series matchup against New York, 3-1, including an 89-81 Sky win at home on July 29th.
“[The Liberty have] done a really good job at packing the paint,” Sky guard Kahleah Copper said at practice. “They have really great guards. They’re shooting a lot of 3s. We need to contain the 3-point line but also be able to stop them off the dribble.”
This is a Liberty team that can hang around for the entirety of the game, putting the pressure on the Sky to start the game out on the right foot. In 3 of the 4 games, New York outscored Chicago in the opening quarter.
“We know how hard it is to win in the playoffs,” Copper said. “I think we’re laser focused. We’re really locking in on how we’re starting games.
“There’s another level we can tap into. We were making the same mistakes throughout the year. Taking care of games and putting people away is something we also want to do.”
The biggest threats on the Liberty are forward Natasha Howard and guard Sabrina Ionescu with Howard having consistent success against Chicago in every matchup.
On average, Howard put up just under 12 points a game over the 4-game series with the Sky in the regular season. In the last two matchups, Howard has put up double-doubles.
“If you let her get loose, she’ll exploit it,” Wade said. “She’s a 3-time champion for a reason. We have to make sure a lot of our efforts go to contain her.”
Ionescu has made headlines all season long, from setting triple-double records to recording 500+ points, 150+ rebounds and 150+ assists in a single season, something only achieved by two other players in WNBA history (Candace Parker & Cappie Pondexter).
However, against the Sky, she’s been very limited. Chicago’s done a great job of keeping her just at or below her season scoring average of 17.4 points per game and limiting her shots at the arc to no more than six total attempts.
If Chicago can curb these two power players and open up the game on a strong note, repeating as WNBA champions becomes a bigger reality. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. at Wintrust Arena.