Game 2: Liberty look to win series vs.  Chicago Sky

Game 2: Liberty look to win series vs. Chicago Sky

A stone cold stunner. The New York Liberty opened the WNBA playoffs against the Chicago Sky and were close to being down for the count. However, the team got off the mat and finished with a flurry as they shocked the defending champs and won, 98-91. They’re up 1-0 in the best of three series and are feeling great after getting the franchise’s first postseason win in seven years.

The Sky are hoping to bring this back to Barclays Center for game three on Tuesday evening.

Where to follow the game

ESPN is the place to be. Tip after high noon.

insults

Nothing here for New York.

Li Yueri is not with the team. There’s somebody who might be injured, but isn’t on the injury report. More on that in a bit.

The game

You know why I’m here…

Yup, still spellbound by that Marine Johannes pass! Crystal Dangerfield watched “The Pass” from the bench and spoke about it along with the excellent Unfinished Business documentary that told the story of the Liberty franchise

“[Johannes] likes to shrug it off like it’s nothing, but we’re on the bench losing our minds over it! Things like that, in the moment that it was, we were down. Just a play like that gives your team energy and I think that really sparked our run. After that, you see what happens.

I think the way our season is going, especially after having that documentary come out, it’s really poetic. This franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since 2015 and we come out [and beat] the defending fields in the first game. Stuff like that is really cool.”

MJ walked us through the play from her perspective

That’s the good stuff. Johannes will be key to the Liberty’s second unit tonight. She had seven assists and most importantly, kept the flow of the offense going when some of the starters sat. The Liberty are most effective when the ball is moving on a string and they’ve got opponents reacting to them. You never know which direction she’s gonna go, and that’s perfect when you’re trying to pull off the upset.

The Liberty essentially matched the Sky on the boards, and that was a major win for Sandy Brondello’s club. Stef Dolson was monumental for New York on both sides as she was able to serve as a release valve when the Sky trapped Liberty ballhandlers. If Dolson is able to keep the Sky bigs on their heels and away from the basket, that will open some things up for the Liberty as they cut to the cup. Candace Parker captains the Sky defense, and we’ll see how they change things up after New York was able to

Natasha Howard outplayed Emma Meesseman on Wednesday night, and the Liberty will need Tash to do it one more time. Howard helped hold Meesseman to only four points and four rebounds. In the regular season, Meesseman gave New York trouble, but they kept her out of the paint for much of the night on Wednesday. Howard was phenomenal down the stretch as not only was she on the receiving end of The Pass from Johannes, but made an incredibly smart cut as she caught Azure Stevens ball watching for half a second and made her pay for it:

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Turnovers have been an issue for the Liberty all year, but Wednesday night was a nice role reversal. They won the turnover battle and got 14 points off of those Chicago turnovers. Dangerfield credited the team’s scout in helping them be prepared for Chicago’s defense and noted that they’ll have to be ready to adjust to changing coverages on defenses by the Sky. They’ll need to cut down the Sky’s points in transitions, and by having well run possessions on offense, that will help the cause immensely.

Sabrina Ionescu had an amazing game, but there’s one area she can improve on. She committed five personal fouls, including two fouls on three pointers. She’s too important of a player to make mistakes like that, so she’ll need to contest shots without getting herself in trouble. Otherwise, she was masterful. She scored 10 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as she hit clutch buckets down the stretch to put the Sky away.

Player to watch: Kahleah Copper

On Friday, reporters saw Copper being helped off the practice court and taken to the trainer’s room. She returned to the practice court and told Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun Times that she was OK. Annie asked Coach/General Manager, James Wade, about the Finals MVP, and…

OK.

The Liberty come in to this game hoping to keep Copper out of the paint. Copper is one of the best slashers and finishers at the rim and when she’s getting downhill, it’s bad news for the defense. On Wednesday, Copper finished with 21 points and eight rebounds on 7-14 from the field. They forced her into four turnovers, but want to do better at keeping her out of the paint. Sandy Brondello spoke about the team’s work in defending her after Wednesday’s game, and said:

“You can’t guard her 1-on-1, she’s an elite player and she’s very athletic. We weren’t pushing her into the crowd, we weren’t congesting her as well as we wanted to. So it’s just doing your work early and just trusting the players behind you. She still scored 21, but we kind of limited her a little later in the game and brought a little bit more help and made someone else try and shoot the ball.”

We asked Johannes about what it will take to slow Copper down, and she said:

“I think it’s going to be a team defense. We saw this morning at practice that we have to adjust more with her. I think [Betnijah Laney] and [Rebecca Allen] during the first game, so I think we have to be ready for the next game. She’s going to be more aggressive. I think it’s team defense, too.”

Constantly taking tough jumpers can take a toll on you as the game progresses so we’ll see how New York handles this challenge.

Betnijah Laney had a wonderful game on Wednesday as her 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists gave the Sky one more player to worry about. Among all of the great things Laney does, her physicality and toughness on defense gives the Liberty the edge they need. The team has benefitted from her return as she gives them the scoring punch they need at all three levels. And if it’s close late, they can give it to Bee and let her work. Laney, Ionescu, and Howard scored all 13 points of the team’s 13-0 run to seal the deal. Playoffs are when the stars shine brightest, and Laney is ready to do it again.

From the Vault

We’re in Chicago, which means we’re gonna rock out with the legendary Frankie Knuckles!

More reading: Swish Appeal, Nets Republic, Just Women’s Sports, Baseline Sports NY, Winsidr, Her Hoop Stats and The Next

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