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With Natasha Howard likely to debut, Liberty will try to bounce back against Sky

Chicago Sky v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Well, they won't be undefeated. The New York Liberty went into Washington DC on Friday night hoping to push their record to 4-0. Unfortunately for them, the Mystics had other plans and wrecked them by 29 points. It's like that sometimes.

The opponent today will be the Chicago Sky. It was an... interesting offseason for James Wade and Sky management, but they’re back and hoping to go on a championship run. They’re off to a great 2-0 start after beating the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday night.

Where to follow the game

ESPN is the place to be. Brunch and basketball so we’re getting started after 1 p.m. The game is in Chicago.

Injuries

Jocelyn Willoughby is out for the season with an Achilles rupture. Leaonna Odom is doubtful with her own Achilles injury. Natasha Howard is in Chicago and will be making her Liberty debut.

Candace Parker twisted her ankle in practice prior to Wednesday’s game and had to sit out. She's listed as probable. Azura Stevens is also probable with a foot injury. Allie Quigley is out with a hamstring injury.

The game

How do you bounce back after a rough loss? That's what Walt Hopkins will have to figure out for his team. Blowout losses happen over the course of a year so it's like that sometimes. The team has a back-to-back so they can’t linger too long on their first L of the year. Chicago plays incredibly fast and have been off for a few days so look for them to push the tempo early.

We mentioned the weird offseason the Sky had, and it centered around Gabby Williams. Williams reportedly didn’t want to play for the Sky anymore, the team suspended her, and she was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. The team and James Wade could’ve definitely handled the situation a LOT better than they did, so here’s hoping they learned something and do better next time.

Welcome to Brooklyn, Natasha Howard! The former All Star joins a team that has gotten off to a marvelous start. For those unfamiliar with her, Jim Savell of Swish Appeal has more:

Howard blossomed into a superb offensive threat and defensive stopper for the Storm. However in 2020, her role changed significantly with the return of Breanna Stewart. Howard’s usage rate fell from 29 percent in 2019 to 21 percent in 2020 and she saw her scoring production halve. Howard should be a top option for the Liberty, giving her ample opportunity to show the league what she is capable of on the court.

Howard figures to match up against the newest member of the Sky, Candace Parker! CP3 offers great rim protection, solid post scoring, and is an incredibly deft ballhandler and passer from the high post. Parker adds one more dimension to a team that figures to compete with Seattle and Las Vegas for a championship this season.

Player to watch: Courtney Vandersloot

You won’t find many point guards in basketball that are as good at setting their teammates up for buckets as Vandersloot. The five time (five time, five time, five time, FIVE TIME!) assist champion is off to a decent start two games in and is coming off one of her best shooting seasons as she shot 39.5 percent from three in the wubble last year.

Turnovers didn’t help the Liberty’s cause, so Sabrina Ionescu will have something to clean up for this contest. She coughed it up four times on Friday and shot 3-9 from the floor as the Mystics did a great job defensively against her. The competition always manages to catch up to elite youngsters so we’ll see how Ionescu counters the league as they get more familiar with her. Luckily her court vision is A+ and is currently leading the W in assists. With a national audience watching, Ionescu will put on a big show as she hopes to steer the Libs to another quality win.

From the Vault

Get up and jam with Chaka!

More reading: Swish Appeal