The Liberty Stunned The Sky To Steal Game 1 In Chicago

The Chicago Sky played host to the New York Liberty on Wednesday night in the first game of the WNBA Playoffs, as the 2-seed in the league looked to get their title defense off to a strong start.

However, the Liberty had other ideas in a thrilling Game 1 that saw big runs on both sides, a number of lead changes, and a ton of offense as both teams piled up the points in what became a 98-91 New York win. It was clear from the outset that the Liberty had come to play, as Sabrina Ionescu, Natasha Howard, and company were able to take an early (small) lead, going right at the Chicago defense and taking the aggression to the Sky.

The champs would respond, with Kahleah Copper, Candace Parker, and company battling to take a four-point lead into the second quarter, but New York would not fade away, as they were able to go on a second quarter run to seize a three-point lead at the half after Marine Johannes started to get hot.

New York would extend their lead early in the second, but Copper’s relentless attacking helped the Sky flip the script and pull ahead by one going into the fourth.

A four-point play early in the fourth from Allie Quigley pushed the Sky ahead for what looked like it might be good, as they would hold a two-possession advantage for much of the quarter.

However, midway through the fourth Ionescu started to get hot, hitting from all over with a spinning, driving lay-in, a quick-trigger three, and then a midrange pull-up that put the Liberty in front by three and forced a Chicago timeout as their offense stalled.

Unfortunately for the Sky, they just could not find an answer offensively down the stretch as the Liberty closed the game out on a 13-0 run to win by seven, with Johannes delivering the highlight of the game with a wild over the head assist to Howard to put the icing on the cake.

The win means the Liberty now have homecourt advantage in the Best of 3 first round format, with Chicago needing to win back-to-back games in order to advance to the second round. Ionescu and Howard each finished with 22 points to lead the Liberty, along with 17 from Betnijah Laney and 13 from Stefanie Dolson. On Chicago’s side there were plenty of strong performances, as Copper led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, Parker had 18 points and 10 boards, Quigley scored 18, and Azura Stevens had 16 off the bench, but the offense went cold at the wrong time and the usually stout defense of the Sky was not able to contain the Liberty on offense down the stretch.

The biggest difference from the two sides was from beyond the arc, where New York went 11-for-25 (44 percent) compared to a 7-for-25 (28 percent) night for Chicago. They’ll be back in action on Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), with New York finding itself as the team with a chance to close things out and knock out the defending champs on the road.