‘They showed us how lethal they can be’: Liberty stuns Sky in Game 1
As the game ticked down to the final few minutes, the Sky were up 91-85 and poised to take the crucial first matchup in a best-of-3 postseason series. With their backs against the wall, the Liberty called a timeout with only 3:32 left in the game.
Right out of the timeout, Liberty stars Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu put up 5 quick points. That turned into a 13-0 run, handing the Sky a 98-91 loss in Game 1 of the first round.
“I think we started to panic a little bit,” Sky forward Azurá Stevens said after the game. “We were down, trying to get back. I feel like we haven’t panicked all year. Tonight, we might have a little bit, which is very uncharacteristic for us.”
Chicago came out very strong, taking an early 24-20 lead in the first quarter with Candace Parker leading the way with 8 of her 17 total points. It was a game of constant runs, but the Liberty ended the half on a 20-8 run, giving them a 3-point lead heading into halftime.
“This is the reigning champs,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said. “They’re a dominant basketball team, and we found a way to win by staying together, competing and making plays when we needed to.”
The Sky came out with a new fire in the second half, dropping 29 points in the third quarter, giving the Sky just a 2 point lead entering the fourth. The Liberty would not go away, still hanging around until Chicago let its guard down.
“We just weren’t good. We relaxed,” Sky head coach/general manager James Wade said. “We had a six point lead and it comes to a point where you need to put a team away. We relaxed, and they came back at us. They showed us how lethal they can be.”
Four of the Liberty starters scored in double digits, with Howard and Ionescu leading the way with 22 points a piece. Betnijah Laney followed with 17 and former Sky Stefanie Dolson finished with 13 points.
Both Parker and Courtney Vandersloot finished with double-doubles. Parker put up 17 points and 10 rebounds while Vandersloot finished with 13 points and 10 assists. Kahleah Copper led the team in scoring with 21 points.
“The next level is us, for 40 minutes, playing at a high level,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we’ve done that all year. We’ve had spurts of it. We’ve done it a couple quarters, but we have to do it consistently throughout the whole game.”
Chicago will look to stay alive in the playoffs when they host Game 2 of the first round on Saturday, Aug. 20th. Tip time is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN.