New York looks to keep winning ways alive in playoff series against Chicago
For the second consecutive season, the New York Liberty have clinched a spot in the 2022 WNBA playoffs.
After suffering a heartbreaking loss against Phoenix a year ago, this time, a big challenge awaits them; the defending champion Chicago Sky.
Chicago holds a 3-1 record against New York this season, and its lone loss stemmed from dealing with travel issues.
Despite the Sky’s regular season success over the Liberty, they shouldn’t overlook them because almost every game was a close contest.
A campaign ago, the sixth-seeded Sky won the finals against the Phoenix Mercury. Building upon their run last year, they finished this season tied for the best record in the league at 26-10.
However, the Las Vegas Aces had the advantage on the tie break resulting in the Chicago taking on New York.
The 2022 season is the first with the new reconstructed playoff format, which features three rounds, with the first being a best of three series and the final two being a best of five.
The series between the Sky and Liberty begins on Aug. 17, with the second game taking place on Aug. 20, and with Chicago being the higher seed, it has home court advantage for the first two games.
If New York can win one game on the road, it will return home for a decisive game three.
Traveling to the windy city is always a challenge for every team, as the Sky posted the best home record in the league, dropping only four games.
Luckily for the Liberty, they enter the playoffs playing their basketball all season, winning their last three games to secure a spot in the dance.
New York is a hunger-fueled squad this postseason after Phoenix barely snuck past it a year ago when Brianna Turner made a free throw with 0.4 seconds left to win the game 83-82.
Last season the Liberty were led in scoring by Betnijah Laney, who averaged 16.8 points per game, but this year she’s dealt with injuries and sits third in points per game. Laney’s return to the lineup has provided a much-needed spark.
Their new star Sabrina Ionescu was named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week and averaged over 17 points during the regular season.
This season Ionescu has become the lead facilitator, consistently facing double teams and creating opportunities for her teammates.
She will face a tough Sky defense with Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley in the backcourt. The surrounding pieces around Ionescu will be important in contributing to the offensive attack.
New York had a boost in its last contest playing with its entire active roster, as Stefanie Dolson and Marine Johannés are two factors that weren’t a part of the 2021 New York Liberty team.
In the win over the Atlanta Dream to clinch the playoffs, Johannés came off the bench, drilling four triples in the first quarter. She ended the game with a career-high six triples totaling 18 points.
Dolson also had an outstanding performance earning a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
It's a great sign for New York that its roster is healthy, and it grabbed a significant victory even when Ionescu struggled the entire game. She finished with five points making one of 12 shots from the field.
Chicago is known for its elite roster, but New York has been displaying its bench depth and is proven successful even when its star players are having an off night.
Coach Sandy Brondello has been great for New York this season, coaching them through adversity. She will have her team ready against a familiar foe, as she coached against the Sky last year in the WNBA finals.
Even though Chicago has struggled this month, it's coming off a win over the Mercury to end the season with the starters sitting the entire fourth quarter. With the experience and home court, it’ll be difficult for this Liberty team to force a game three.
The Sky will take care of business easily in game one, but game two will be a hard-fought, close battle.
If New York can limit its turnovers and keep up with the Sky’s offense, it will have a chance of knocking off the defending champions.
Austin Groft is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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