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2022 WNBA playoffs: Sabrina Ionescu, Liberty stun Sky in Game 1 with fourth-quarter comeback

THE BRAND NEW York Liberty snuck in to the playoffs with an archive four games under .500 and were major underdogs contrary to the defending champion Chicago Sky. Anything can occur in the postseason, though, especially in a brief best-of-three series. Something did happen on Wednesday night, because the Liberty stunned the Sky with a late fourth-quarter comeback to win 98-91 and have a 1-0 lead.

After Courtney Vandersloot scored to provide the Sky a 91-85 lead with 3: 31 remaining, it seemed the veteran squad would distance themself and survive a scare in the initial game of these title defense. Instead, the Liberty held them scoreless all of those other way and closed the overall game on a 13-0 run that left Wintrust Arena silent.

Sabrina Ionescu finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead just how, while Natasha Howard went for 22 points and seven rebounds. Betnijah Laney added 17 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the Liberty as a team went 11 of 25 from 3-point land.

Candace Parker led just how for the Sky in defeat, registering 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Kahleah Copper was the high-scorer with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Courtney Vandersloot contributed 13 points and 10 assists.

Game 2 is defined for Saturday afternoon in Chicago, and it’ll now be considered a must-win for the Sky.

Here are a few key takeaways from the overall game:

Liberty end game on 13-0 run

With 3: 31 remaining in the fourth quarter, Courtney Vandersloot drove inside and converted among her patented flip layups to push the Sky’s result in six. It had been a vintage late-game play from the veteran point guard, also it seemed like it will be the start of the finish for the Liberty. We’ve seen that kind of game frequently in the playoffs; an underdog includes a nearly perfect performance but runs out of gas down the stretch.

Just 62 seconds later, however, the Liberty were in the front. The comeback happened super fast:

  • Natasha Howard scored a layup off an excellent feed from Marine Johannes to slice the deficit to four
  • After Azura Stevens short-armed a wide-open layup, Sabrina Ionescu buried a 3-pointer to create it a one-point game
  • Vandersloot missed a 3, and down on another end Betnijah Laney found Howard for a straightforward layup to place the Liberty in the front

Even then, though, you figured the Sky would awaken and find out ways to win as they’ve done so often this year. It never happened. That they had their chances, like a possession where that they had two offensive rebounds and missed three shots with just over two minutes left. Or Emma Meesseman’s wide-open 3-pointer with 1: 47 remaining that could have tied the overall game.

As bad because the Sky were down the stretch, the Liberty were just as good. They not merely took the lead; they pulled away and won comfortably. Throughout their 13-0 run, these were 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free throw line. They played an ideal stretch of basketball and did etc the road contrary to the defending champs.

Liberty carve up Sky’s aggressive defense

Turnovers were an enormous issue for the Liberty this year, because they finished ninth in the league with a 19.3 turnover percentage. Put simply, they turned the ball over using one from every five possessions. It had been little surprise, then, that the very first time they tried to perform a pick-and-roll, the Sky sent a trap to observe how they would cope with the pressure.

On that possession, Betnijah Laney calmly stepped through and found Stefanie Dolson for a wide-open 3-pointer.

Plays like this became a trend during the period of the overall game. The Sky trapped, high-hedged and tried to place the Liberty’s ball-handlers under just as much stress as you possibly can. It didn’t work. Laney, Sabrina Ionescu and Marine Johannes carved up the Sky’s defensive scheme by making the smart pass again and again.

That trio each had at the very least five assists, so when a team the Liberty recorded 28 assists and only eight turnovers — their fewest in a casino game all season. Moving the ball resulted in open shots, which resulted in the Liberty shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point land.

Here’s another perfect example to start out the 3rd quarter. The Sky trap Ionescu from the pick-and-roll, and she calmly drops the ball off to a wide-open mid-range jumper.

For all your success the Liberty had making the easy play, a team with Johannes sometimes must use the spectacular aswell. Late in the fourth quarter, the Frenchwoman started the team’s game-winning 13-0 run with among the best passes you’ll ever see. Careening off a screen from Natasha Howard, she out ran the Sky’s trap and whipped the ball back again to Howard over her head.

Heading into Game 2, it’ll be interesting to see if the Sky continue steadily to play such aggressive defense or visit a more traditional scheme. Similarly, the Liberty weren’t consistent through the season and may easily have a 20-turnover game under similar circumstances. Simultaneously, the Liberty are one of the better shooting teams in the league, and when they handle the pressure well they’ll get open looks. Which, because they showed in Game 1, is bad news because of their opponent.

Johannes the magician

Casual fans might not be acquainted with Marine Johannes, who before coming over from France in the center of the growing season hadn’t played in the WNBA since 2019. But while she might not be children name at this time, that may change if the Liberty can embark on a deep playoff run.

Probably the most unique, entertaining and inventive players in every of basketball, she actually is quite literally a genius. Her daring and skill was on display forever long, as she finished with the loudest eight points and seven assists you’ll ever see. These overhead pass to Howard was the very best play of the night time, nonetheless it was definately not the only real incredible moment.

Late in the initial half, she took an outlet pass and pulled up for a deep 3 on a one-on-one fastbreak. She drained it in addition to the foul. That has been an ill-advised shot, however the willingness to go on it is why is Johannes so much fun.

There is another pass that wont get just as much attention because the overhead dime but was nearly as ridiculous. Coming off the screen, she split the defenders having an absurd bounce pass.

With the Liberty now guaranteed to play at the very least three games this postseason, we have to be in for a few more Johannes magic.

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