Liberty was six points behind before three and a half minutes left, but it started with a decisive pass from the goalkeeper johannes navy That started a 13-0 rally to close the match.
Johannes hit forward Natasha Howard With an improbable overhead pass, with no appearance as Howard sprinted to the basket for an effortless throw of the ball.
It was the kind of pass that Howard learned to keep ready for, even if she wasn’t expecting it, while playing with a WNBA legend on her former team before joining Liberty.
“It kind of reminds me of a So Bird He passed, “Howard, who played with Seattle from 2019-20, said after the game” so it brought up a little flashback. “
After Johannes’ pass, Liberty went 5-for-5 off the field to finish the game, securing the franchise’s first playoff victory since September 23, 2015.
Howard and Liberty goalkeeper Sabrina Unescu Each had 22 points as the highest in the game as New York set a franchise record for most points in a playoff game.
“We struggled throughout the game with ups and downs,” Ionescu said. “We were pretty much down there in fourth and we kept losing. I think it was just a sense of pride that we came here and did what we had to do. And what no one thought we could do.”
The loss puts Sky on the brink of elimination in this three-game series after Chicago went out goalless during the 3:32 final on Wednesday.
Sky shot 0 for 8 from the field down the extension, including a 0 for 5 of 3, and lost a pair of free throws. They had their chances throughout the fourth quarter but only went 2 for 9 in a wide open appearance, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, including a 0 for 6 outside of two feet.
“We’ve been frustrating and trying to get back, I don’t know, I feel like we haven’t panicked all year, maybe a little bit tonight,” Sky forward Azura Stevens He said after the match. “Which is a bit uncharacteristic for us. But that’s okay, we’ll be better on Saturday.”
Five players from Sky scored in double figures led by Kolaya copper With 21 points, but the sky was unable to score or stop at the defense. The 98 points they allowed on Wednesday was the most they conceded in a playoff game since 2016.
Sky forward said, “We have to stay together.” Candice ParkerWho finished 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. “[Courtney Vandersloot] He said this is a chain. We have to stay together, we know that. We know we made it tough. But as we have done in the past, we must keep one match after another. We cannot look forward. We have to go out on Saturday and be better overall.”
Game two on Saturday afternoon in Chicago.
The WNBA adopted a new pre-season elimination format, moving away from the first two-round singles elimination matches that had become a staple since 2016 but adopting a three-game series in the first round.
However, the top seed gets the first two home games, with the lower seed taking the home court advantage in a potentially crucial third match, a format that Sky coach James Wade contested earlier this week.
“The important thing is that we have to play 40 minutes,” Wade said after the match. “We can’t play this team for 35 minutes, we can’t play for 30 minutes. We have to play them for 40 minutes because the moment you relax, they take advantage of it. And that’s how everyone is. I’m going to play against the champions.”
Now to advance beyond the first round and try to become the first team to win back-to-back WNBA championships in 20 years, Sky will need to win Game 3 in Brooklyn. New York finds itself one victory away from a major upset that could turn the playoffs on its head.
“You’re going into such a special series that you only need one steal,” Liberty coach Sandy Brundello said. “I’m so proud of this team and the way they fought and stayed together. It wasn’t always perfect, but this is playoff basketball. We found a way to win. Now you just have to get up in the next match. It’s the better of the two, but we know if it’s We can win, we can advance.”
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