Defending champion Chicago Sky is alive. Late Tuesday night, they rejected the New York Liberty’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt and won 90-72 in the decisive Game 3 of the first-round series. The Sky will now await the winner of the Connecticut Suns-Dallas Wings series in the semifinals.
After an intense start to the game, the Sky took control late in the first quarter and eventually pushed their halftime lead into double digits. Still, the Liberty was able to stay within reach and had their first big game early in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to three. It turned out to be all they could get, as Sky dominated from then on and ended up with a pretty easy win.
Candace Parker led the Sky all the way to a near triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Meanwhile, Courtney Vandersloot had 14 points, five rebounds and 10 assists in one of her typical performances. The Sky had six different players in double figures and forced 15 turnovers, and they turned into 23 points.
Natasha Howard had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Liberty in the loss, while Sabrina Ionescu had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Betnijah Laney had 15 points and five rebounds. The Liberty played well in the regular season and this series, but they ultimately didn’t have enough to beat the defending champs.
Here are some key points of the game:
Parker, Van der Sloot lead the way
For the first time The Sky got the ball, Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker hit a little hot potato before the former stormed into the paint and scored a tough layup. A few possessions later, Van der Sloot found Parker in space at the rim and made a precise pass on the defensive end that the veteran forward was able to convert into two more points.
Parker to Vandersloot, Vandersloot to Parker. The first two baskets foreshadowed how the rest of the night would play out. When you’re facing elimination, you need your best players to stand up and be called, and when Parker and Van der Sloot are called, they’re ready.
The veteran duo took the lead, with the Sky leading 4-0 as they faced elimination in the last two playoffs. Parker nearly became the third player in WNBA history to record a triple-double in the playoffs (Vandersloot was one of two players to achieve the feat), with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists . Meanwhile, Vandersloot had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists.
Freeman couldn’t finish this comeback
Freeman in the first game stunned the sky on the road came back late in the fourth quarter, which included a 13-0 finish. For a brief period in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, it looked like we might be in for another dramatic end. Sky had other ideas.
Trailing by as many as 14 in the third quarter, the Liberty narrowed the deficit to a manageable 10 into the fourth, then opened 7-0 on a ludicrous 3-pointer by Sabrina Ionescu Run is highlighted. The Barclays Center – which hosted the first WNBA playoffs – is alive and well, and the Liberty has all the momentum.
What they don’t have is the same amount of talent, experience, and comfort that sky-high moments. The next 6 minutes and 11 seconds were a masterclass from the sky as they closed the game 16-0. Their passing, shooting and defensive intensity all reached a level unmatched by the free agents. While the series was entertaining at times, the stretch served as a reminder of why the Sky were tied for the best record in the league at 26-10, while the Liberty sneaked into the playoffs at 16-20.
Sky’s repeat mission continues
After losing the first game at home in a short two-inning series, Sky did not give Leave yourself any room for mistakes, especially the odd 2-1 format in the first round. To their credit, they regrouped and showed in Game 2 and Game 3 why they were the best ball in the league all season one of the teams.
Now, their repeat mission goes to the semifinals, where they will await the winner of the Connecticut Suns-Dallas Wings series. These two teams will play a winner-take-all third game Wednesday night in Dallas. During the regular season, the Sky defeated the Suns 4-0 and the Wings 2-1. They would prefer to face the latter, though, as they barely edged the Suns in the semifinals last season.
No matter who they face, the Sky now need just six more wins to become the first team to defend the WNBA title since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002. Even the Minnesota Bobcats, who won four championships in seven years in the 2010s, can win again — that’s how hard it is to do that in this league.