They played hard, they fought back valiantly multiple times, but ultimately the New York Liberty were unable to pull off the upset and lost 90-72 to the Chicago Sky, eliminating them from the 2022 WNBA playoffs Tuesday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Sky were always in control; they led the entire game except for three minutes spread out during the first quarter. Other than that, they always kept the Liberty out of reach. Sabrina Ionescu started the game off poorly, only having seven points at the half, and Natasha Howard wasn’t much better, contributing six. Marine Johannès had an incredible first quarter going 3-of-3 from deep, but didn’t score again after that. For every positive moment the Liberty had, they had an equally bad one.
A perfect example of this was the end of the first half. Ionescu, struggling offensively all game, easily drove past Courtney Vandersloot and got a layup to cut the lead to single digits with 5.9 seconds to go. Unfortunately, no one picked up Azurá Stevens, and she ran the entire court unbothered and got an easy layup to end the half and keep the lead in double digits.
Terrible way for the Liberty to end the half. They convert a layup after the timeout, but then allow a transition bucket with the clock running out — to a big, no less. Great effort by Azurá Stevens. pic.twitter.com/KSrZXpxpue
— Positive Residual (@presidual) August 24, 2022
Despite the struggles and frustration, the Liberty never gave up. They cut the lead to five after an incredible sequence where Ionescu made a basket, got the and one call, missed the free throw, got the rebound and hit a three. The lead was cut to as little as three with 8:48 left in the fourth when Chicago decided it was time to bring out that championship quality, and they ran the Liberty out of the gym. They went on a 16-0 run and ended the Liberty’s season.
There are no moral victories in the playoffs; however, the Liberty pushed the defending champs as far as possible; it was a one-possession game in the fourth on their home court. They had their opportunities but couldn’t come out with a result. Betnijah Laney was incredible, scoring 15 points and adding five boards. Ionescu ended the night with 14 points and six rebounds and had a few offensive bursts that kept New York in the game. Howard grabbed 11 boards, a vast improvement from Game 2, when she only had two.
Ultimately the Liberty lost because the Sky were the better team. When Vandersloot, Parker, and Quigley are at their best, they are too much to overcome. They overwhelm you on both sides of the ball and suffocate the life out of a team. And that’s precisely what they did in the fourth. Yes, the Liberty could’ve brought the turnovers down, they could’ve grabbed a couple more boards, but the reason for the loss was the team across from them simply had more talent, and that talent performed at its highest level when it mattered most.
The offseason starts now for the Liberty, but unlike many other teams, the Liberty have their core intact for next season. Ionescu, Dolson, Howard, and Laney are all under contract, so New York can build off this year’s success and fill in the gaps where they see fit. They have four open roster spots and their 2023 First Round and Third Round pick. It’ll be interesting to see what moves the general manager Jonathan Kolb and company make to improve the roster and make a deeper playoff run in 2023.