Sky

Sky Imprison Liberty, Forcing Series To Brooklyn

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By Ashley Wijangco and Jeffrey Newholm

Complete Turnaround

When life’s basketball threatens to bounce out of bounds, only a champion can rescue it while simultaneously whipping the sphere towards a teammate.

The ReCrown Skytown playoff campaign started disappointingly for the reigning champion Chicago Sky.

Although the Sky ended the regular season with a win, August had already been one of the team’s worst months of the year with a 3-3 record. That continued with Chicago’s first-round playoff series-opening loss to the New York Liberty on Wednesday. The Sky lost 98-91 after the Liberty closed out the game with a 13-0 run.

Saturday’s game two, though? A complete turnaround that set a WNBA record.

From the moment the game tipped off, Chicago channeled a competitive mindset and focused mentality. The Sky’s tone, demeanor, and approach to the game were felt instantly. It fueled their strong start — something that had been an issue of sorts during the end of the regular season — and remained till the final buzzer sounded.

Open Gym

Sometimes, in elementary and middle school, generous gym teachers let students take the day off from learning the rules of a new day’s sport. Instead, youths hear those two magical words: open gym. The janitors lower the baskets from the rafters and release dozens of basketballs, allowing aspiring hoopers to imagine they’re in the NBA or WNBA.

Sometimes, the home team feels like it got an F with a surprising first-game loss. But just as often, the visiting squad is too carefree in the rematch, and the favored franchise takes advantage.

James Wade, the 2022 WNBA executive of the year, is a dang good coach too. The Sky brought fierce defensive intensity Saturday, suffocating New York’s attempts to move the ball inside.

Considering that the Liberty shot 3/20 from three, that advantage proved decisive.

However, it was transition points that primarily turned a promising showdown into a laugher. Officially, Chicago led 20-5 in fast break points (according to the Sky’s official game notes), but Sky Lead demands a recount.

Candace Parker, with 12 points, and Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, with 20, probably had more difficult opportunities back in their excellent younger years, when they first handled the beautiful orange globe against classmates not destined for the pros.

The Sky just blazed to the basket. Liberty coach Sandy Brondello could have had a stratosphere’s worth of timeouts (and it seems that way sometimes), but it never would’ve been enough. After the final horn, the Liberty raced to the visitor’s locker room, surely a place of revelry after their game-one victory.

Funny, though, how quickly an arena can go from a fierce exhibition won by the underdog to a defending champ’s statement: the best until knocked off, and most undoubtedly not in their home city.

Victory, Just Maybe Not A Record

With the game two victory, the Sky has the momentum going into the series closer. It’s a significant advantage, but they aren’t necessarily going to be the ones with the upper hand. Game three will be at the Liberty’s home court of the Barclays Center. So it’s all the more important for Chicago to channel the same energy they did Saturday.

From the starting group to the closing lineup, the Sky played disciplined. No matter how much the lead grew, Chicago continued to play lockdown defense and remained relentless. If that’s the Sky squad that shows up in game three (and onward), then a series-clinching victory will surely be ahead. Just maybe not another record-breaking one.

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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