No 2 Sky bounces back Liberty, 90-72, in Game 3 as quest for Championship repeat continues

It was a classic Chicago Sky-style victory to come out of a deciding third game on the road and return to the WNBA Semifinals in their own home. They bounced the No. 7 seed New York Freedom, 90-72, behind their historic assist rate and generally even streak on the road at the Barclays Center in New York on Tuesday night.

The Sky will face the winner of No. 3 Connecticut and No. 6 Dallas. This Game 3 is Wednesday night. The No. 1 seed Aces and the No. 4 seed Storm have already booked places in the other semi-final. The new playoff format does not reseed teams between rounds.

Chicago led by a safe, but relatively small, double-digit margin for most of the contest until Sabrina Ionescu brought the Liberty down to within five to start the fourth. They came within one possession, but that comeback attempt quickly evaporated as Sky’s offense soared on a 16-0 run to seal it. New York scored seven points in the 9:02 final.

Each Sky starter and their sixth player finished between 12 and 15 points and the team finished with 27 assists, three more than their WNBA record average of 24.3. Candice Parker approached a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Azura Stevens approached a double-double off the bench with 12 points (5 of 9) and eight rebounds.

The Sky are looking to become the first team to repeat as champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02. Their title window is small with so many players enter free agency again this winter.

How heaven ended the series

When that happens, it’s fair to say it’s just your night.

Chicago was able to do almost anything they wanted offensively in the first half against Liberty’s poor defense. The Liberty failed to disrupt shooters or passing lanes, allowing the Sky to shoot 53.7% in the first half. Chicago had as many assists in the half as the Liberty scored field goals (17) and nearly did the same late in the game (27-30).

The Sky rushed Liberty’s attack and took advantage of New York’s pesky turnover problem. The Liberty had 14 turnovers, tied with their average of 15.5 per game, and Chicago had nine interceptions.

Even though New York drilled their first 3-pointers, it wasn’t going to be enough when Chicago could hit an easy shot anywhere on the court. Although Liberty’s defense tightened in the third quarter, giving up 14 points to 25 and 29, the offense couldn’t take advantage. They missed 5 of 11 attempts in the paint. The missed opportunities piled up.

Ionescu came alive to start the fourth with a five-point drive that cut the lead in half from 10. It was a 9-0 run from New York that Chicago successfully responded with forwards. Emma Meessemanwhich forced Ionescu into a corner trip that changed momentum, and Parker took over.

Betnijah Laney led all Liberty scorers with 15 points on 6 of 11. Ionescu scored 14 points, but on an ineffective 6 of 15 and 2 of 7 from 3-point range. She had six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Natasha Howard had a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Center Stefanie Dolson only scored four out of four attempts.

Marine Johannes once again dazzles the sold-out Barclays Center

Johannes set the tone early for New York and took a sold-out Barclays Center to a roaring crescendo with consecutive 3-pointers in the first quarter.

The French national added a third in the final minute for a 3-of-3 start and nearly half of Liberty’s first-quarter points. Johannes, who missed the first month of the season with Lyon in the Women’s Basketball League final, was placed in the starting lineup for the first time in a 10-game spell in June and July. Crystal Dangerfield made the first two starts for New York.

The pair of Johannès, Ionescu, Laney, Howard and Stefanie Dolson have played 20 minutes together this season (largely due to injuries) and seven minutes in the first 80 minutes of the series. The roster change opened up the attack and relieved Ionescu, who successfully faced pressure from Sky guards Kahleah Copper and Rebekah Gardner in the resounding Game 2 loss.

Johannes’ the passes dazzled the fansincluding his flat behind back that made a comeback in Game 1. But his future in the WNBA is in question with the new prioritization clause in the collective agreement. She opted out of the 2020 bubble season and stayed home with her France national team last year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics where they won bronze. Under the new CBA rule, she would be fined for arriving late and in 2024 would be suspended for missing training camp.

Sky vs. Liberty series results

Game 1: Freedom 98, Sky 91

Game 2: Sky 100, Freedom 62

Game 3: Sky 90, Freedom 72

Semi-final schedule

Games 1: Sunday August 28

Connecticut/Dallas at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Games 2: Wednesday August 31

Connecticut/Dallas at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Games 3: Sunday September 4

Chicago at Connecticut/Dallas, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Games 4: Tuesday September 6 (if necessary)

Chicago at Connecticut/Dallas, TBD on ESPN2

Games 5: Thursday September 8 (if necessary)

Connecticut/Dallas at Chicago, TBD on ESPN2

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