The game was over before it began for the Liberty on Saturday, as the Sky ran away with it and came out victorious 100-62. It started with absolute dominance, with Chicago outscoring New York 31-10 in the first quarter. It wasn’t just the score after one that was devastating; it was a 10-0 run to end the quarter, countless turnovers, and Kahleah Copper leading the charge with 10 of her 20 points.
It starts and ends with their stars for New York, and Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard weren’t good enough to get it done on Saturday. Ionescu was challenged from the jump and was unable to respond. She had just seven points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field. Howard didn’t fare much better, scoring just eight points and grabbing a woeful two rebounds.
The rest of the starting five followed suit, with no one playing anywhere near their season averages. No one on the Liberty side could match the Sky’s quality or intensity. The only possible bright spot was Han Xu, who scored 10 points which tied her with Michaela Onyenwere for most on the team, and 5 rebounds which tied her for most on the team with Ionescu.
Although losing by 38 points is not not only far from ideal but borderline embarrassing, you had to know the Sky was going to respond after a shocking Game 1 loss. And respond they did; they dominated the boards 45-28, had a season-high 14 steals, forced 19 turnovers, and had five players scoring in double digits. Their intensity on both sides of the ball was too much for the Liberty, and they had the victory in hand well before halftime.
Despite the performance, the series is even at one, and New York is right where they want to be. They are home for the series’ final game, and the rules are simple; the winner of this game wins the series. The good news is that Liberty does have a recipe for success. They have to go back to what worked in game one. Ionescu and Howard have to have big games, the Liberty can’t turn the ball over, and they must keep the rebounding battle as close as possible. If they execute on all these phases of the game, they’ll give themselves the best opportunity to win.
Defeating the Chicago Sky on Tuesday would arguably be one of the biggest WNBA playoff upsets in history. The defending champs are heavy favorites to win not just the series but the entire WNBA championship, and Game 2 is a prime example of why that is. When the Sky run on all cylinders, they are unstoppable and an all-time great team. It’s the Liberty’s job to ensure we don’t see that version of Chicago on Tuesday. New York has to play their best game of the year to come out victorious, and they’ll need Chicago to have a subpar performance. We’ll see if the Liberty can finish it at home on Tuesday against the Sky. The game starts at 9 p.m. ET and can be viewed on ESPN.