Chicago Sky advances to the WNBA Semifinals with a Game 3 win

The Chicago Sky had been here before.

Less than a week ago, they watched the New York Liberty thunder to a comeback win on Sky’s home court in Game 1 of the WNBA first round playoff series. The defeat sparked anger at the core of Sky’s veterans, who attributed the scoreless final minutes to mental panic and then responded with a 38-point Game 2 win.

The Sky returned to the same scene on Tuesday night, with the Liberty carving a double-digit lead to three points with a 9-02 to the game.

This time the stakes were higher in an elimination match in the best-of-three series. And this time the sky didn’t crumble.

The reigning champions fended off a last breath from the Liberty and pulled away 90-72 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to reach the semifinals for the second straight season.

“Building on the last game, we saw a flash from a team that we really want to be consistent,” said Sky winger Kahleah Copper. “We saw a version of ourselves that we fell in love with and want to grow from, and there’s just no turning back. We set the tone. Anything below that is simply unacceptable.”

The Sky built Tuesday’s win around the core of the Game 2 blowout – terrorizing the Liberty on the sidelines. The Liberty coughed up eight turnovers in the first half alone, an improvement over Game 2 but still a weakness as the Sky rushed at transition opportunities.

Marine Johannès opened the game with a searing series from distance, dropping her first three 3-pointers to fuel Liberty’s early offense. But the Liberty couldn’t win the game from long range alone.

Sky forward Candace Parker and guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) celebrate during a second-half timeout Tuesday, August 23, 2022, in New York.

Sky concentrated its offensive inside the arc, cutting Liberty’s defenses around the rim. Though they continued to spread evenly across the starting lineup, victory depended on their three veterans – guards Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, and center Candace Parker.

“We all looked at each other and kind of said, ‘Okay, this is the moment,'” Quigley said. “When I see (Vandersloot and Parker) on the pitch I have so much confidence in them. I want to live and die with them. So we all kind of looked at each other and knew we could do it. It will come from all of us.”

Vandersloot and Parker led with two double-doubles – Vandersloot with 14 points and 10 assists, Parker with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Parker was two assists short of her fourth career triple-double.

Six Sky players scored in double digits: Copper and Quigley each scored 15 points, with Quigley sinking four 3-pointers, while Emma Meesseman and Azurá Stevens contributed 12 points each.

Chicago Sky's Candace Parker passes the ball over the head of New York Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu in the first half on August 23, 2022.

Victory seemed certain in the third quarter when a loose ball slipped out of Parker’s fingers, bounced off Liberty forward Betnijah Laney’s arm and rattled into the basket. Sky players on the pitch and on the bench raised their arms in amusement – ​​even their mistakes kept falling.

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu went into Game 3 with a different advantage when she attempted to honor her late mentor Kobe Bryant on his birthday by wearing his jersey at the Barclays Center before the game. Heaven continued to bully the young guard into making mistakes, forcing five turnovers.

Ionescu roared into the fourth quarter, scoring five quick points with a layup and a 3-pointer transition to cut the lead to five. But the Sky fought back rather than buckle under the Liberty’s pressure. Quigley dropped back-to-back 3-pointers with four minutes remaining to anchor a 20-3 run to end the game.

The Sky meets the winner of Wednesday’s game between the Connecticut Sun and Dallas Wings in Game 1 of the semifinals on Sunday (7:00 p.m. ESPN2) at the Wintrust Arena.

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