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Liberty vs. Sky WNBA Playoffs: What You Need To Know

The determined Liberty will look to stop the Sky's repeat bid.

For the New York Liberty, the Sky's anything but the limit. 

The Liberty have not only formed consecutive playoff berths for the first time since a three-year stretch ended in 2017 but they'll also be partaking in their first WNBA playoff series in seven years. Earning another will be difficult: New York's hard work at the end of the season has been rewarded with the No. 7 seed and a best-of-three first-round series against the defending champion Chicago Sky, which gets underway on Wednesday night. 

New York (16-20) has been in a bit of a personal postseason over the last few weeks, as it won each of its last three games (and six of its final nine) to punch its ticket into the eight-team bracket. It capped off a climb back into the playoff picture after starting 1-7, a revival that ended with a sweep of a doubleheader of their closest pursuers, the Atlanta Dream, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. 

The team was sure to fully embrace its own destiny after relying on the kind of strangers to clinch the eighth and final seed on the final day of the regular season. 

Chicago (26-10) is seeking to become the repeat WNBA champion since the 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks. Behind the united talents of Kahleah Copper, Candace Parker, Azura Stevens, Allie Quigley, and Courtney Vandersloot, the Sky earned a franchise record for wins and shared the top spot in the standings with the Las Vegas Aces but missed out on No. 1 thanks to a tiebreaker.

Liberty-Sky Series Schedule

  • Game 1: Wednesday 8/17 @ Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Game 2: Saturday 8/20 @ Chicago, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Game 3: Tuesday, 8/23 @ New York, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2 OR 9 p.m. ET, ESPN (if necessary)

Previously on Liberty-Sky ...

Chicago took three of four games in the regular season, the most recent being an 89-81 victory at home on July 29. The Liberty's lone win in the series was a thriller at Barclays Center, an 83-80 triumph that was secured when Ionescu sank a victorious and-one with under 10 seconds to go, creating the free throw that gave New York a lasting lead. 

Vandersloot didn't partake in the latter New York matchup, as her late buzzer-beater on June 12 allowed the Sky to escape with an 88-86 triumph. The first meeting was a night to forget for the Liberty, who were taken down by a one-sided 83-50 final at Wintrust Arena in the original showdown in May. 

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Putting the "V" in MVP ...

Betnijah Laney, New York

A one-seed improvement doesn't seem like much to the naked eye of the casual basketball observer. But the Liberty have had to embark on most of this playoff trek without the services of Laney, the Most Improved Player in the 2020 Bradenton bubble-turned-2021 All-Star. As Sabrina Ionescu worked her way through a de facto rookie season, it was Laney that kept the Liberty afloat as they built up postseason momentum. 

Sidelined for over 20 games with a knee injury, the Liberty are 3-2 since she re-entered the lineup. While she's slowly rediscovering her scoring touch (averaging 9.7 points over the past three games), the team is interested to see what the six-foot Laney can do defensively, particularly on Copper, the defending WNBA Finals MVP.

Candace Parker, Chicago

We already know that the 2022 postseason will serve as the last dance for Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird. Another icon, Sylvia Fowles, has already sung her final verse in Minnesota. Could Parker be next?

The two-time league MVP has remained mum about her future, briefly hinting that this campaign could be her final year before tip-off. If anything, she's doing all she can to go out on a high note, pulling down 8.6 rebounds per game (third-best in the league). She's got a local talent to defend after moving back to Illinois after bursting onto the hoops scene during her high school days at Naperville, about an hour's drive from the Windy City. With her playmaking abilities more potent than ever at 36, the Liberty have a tall task ahead, as Parker has been the driving championship factor behind a team that was already packed to the brim with championship potential. 

The Liberty Will Win With If ...

They stop Chicago possessions and end them.

The Liberty had a chance to escape with a statement win back in June ... a game that saw Ionescu earn a triple-double ... but they failed to haul down some crucial rebounds before Vandersloot's heroics. In that game, Chicago outrebounded the Liberty 12-2 on the offensive glass. It'll be up to the Liberty's interior threats ... players like Natasha Howard, Stefanie Dolson, Michaela Onyenwere, and Han Xu ... to clean up any Chicago opportunity if they have an interest in pulling off the upset. 

The Sky Will Win With If ...

They get off to a hot start and force turnovers from New York.

The Liberty have been a resilient team all season, but references to the cliches of the playoffs becoming a "second" or "new" season have freshly flowed as tip-off nears. Chicago is blessed with a championship mentality that never fully vanished from the team this season and might've only gotten better. The Sky is also well-aware of seeding going right out the window when the postseason begins, as their championship date with Phoenix (coached, in fact, by Brondello) was a Nos. 5 vs. 6 matchup. 

New York has gotten off to slow starts and the Sky know that better than anybody: their upset in May saw them allow only 17 points in the first half before rolling to victory. The Sky will look to break the Liberty's will immediately as they seek to make easy work of them en route to a title defense.