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Liberty start slow and never catch up as Sky tie the series at 1-1

2022 WNBA Playoffs - New York Liberty v Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s a reason we always tell people to slow down. When you rush, you get out of character. When you get out of character, you start to make mistakes. When you start making mistakes you normally wouldn’t, you feel the pressure mount. When the mistakes pile up, you rush to try and correct the last mistake and get yourself back on solid ground all at once. You repeat that cycle over and over again until you realize you’re too far behind to actually do anything about it.

In mid July, the New York Liberty got saddled with three straight Camp Day games. For those unfamiliar, those games started at 11 AM. And they lost all three games by considerable margins. As we discussed at the time, working a brand new shift when you’re used to the evening time makes for a rocky transition. The Liberty had the morning shift blues, except it happened in the playoffs. The Chicago Sky were able to take full advantage and cruised to a record breaking blowout. Final score: Sky 100, Liberty 62. The 38 point margin of victory was the largest in WNBA playoff history.

In game one, the Liberty only turned it over eight times as they were able to handle the Sky’s hard traps and hedging. Today was a totally different story as they equaled their entire game total of turnovers in game one (eight) in the first quarter alone. On the day, NY turned it over 19 times, tied for the second highest in franchise history per Across the Timeline.

The Sky had a sizable lead late in game one, but allowed the Liberty to storm back and get the win. That wasn’t the case this time as Chicago kept the pressure turned up to 10 all game long. After doing such a great job of handling the pressure, the Liberty felt harried today and didn’t move the ball the ways they normally do. Sandy Brondello mentioned in postgame that the squad went in to too much one-on-one play and took the first shot imaginable instead of getting the Sky moving on defense. Quick shots are the worst ones you can attempt, and when you start slow, things compound. Sandy Brondello spoke about the struggles today and said:

“We have to get off to a better start. We gotta execute the scout. We’re always built around playing selfless basketball, ball and player movement, and we didn’t do that today. They were getting into denials and reversals and we didn’t do the little things well about cutting just to create openings for other players. We just gotta get back to what our identity is and doing the little things harder and better, and committing to that. Shooting when you’re open, being confident in that, but not forcing the action that we’re playing straight into their hands because the pace really worked in the first game. The pace didn’t work in this game because they obviously outran us all game long.”

In game one, the Sky won the points in the paint battle by 10. Today, they built on that and then some. They outscored New York 60-24 in the paint as the Sky took full advantage of those Liberty turnovers. Even after they made the initial stop on defense, they allowed the Sky multiple chances, which wore out the defense and gave Chicago plenty of second chance points.

New York has been able to be elite from three point range to offset any interior disadvantages, but they only went 3-of-20 from downtown this afternoon so that made a difficult job practically impossible. A lot of that was due to the combination of great Sky rotations as well as the Liberty rushing their threes when they did have slivers of daylight. Today was a rough outcome, but we’ve seen the team fight back from bad losses before and that’s going to be the message over the next few days.

The team didn’t have any success as Kahleah Copper shrugged off any possible injury concerns and scored 20 points along with three steals. James Wade and the Sky made an adjustment and ha Copper guard Sabrina Ionescu for much of the game. It worked beautifully as Ionescu only scored seven points in 22 minutes and committed three turnovers.

Keep fighting

2022 WNBA Playoffs - New York Liberty v Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Liberty being at 100 percent, some players have had to fall out of the rotation. Didi Richards and Jocelyn Willoughby were the unlucky two, but they’ve continued to work hard and stay ready. Duty called for Willoughby in the second quarter as Sandy Brondello tried to get somebody in to slow Copper down. Willoughby and Richards gave the Liberty quality minutes off the bench and their size on the perimeter could prove to be helpful for the Liberty as they try to keep the Sky from getting to the basket.

Even with the loss, the team can’t afford to slump their shoulders and give up. Michaela Onyenwere spoke about that in the postgame and said:

Han Xu also said:

“Next game, we oughta come out and be mad. Also, we have to show up with more energy and more aggression as well. Just like Coach Sandy said, we know they’re a championship team but we still have to come out and compete. She believes in us and she believes that we’re gonna get the win.”

All season long, the Liberty have fought back from difficult circumstances. When their chances of making the playoffs were low, they locked in and fought to the finish line to make it here. When media outlets and pundits expected the Sky to roll over them, they matched them shot for shot early before locking them down late to win game one. Now that they are heading home in a do or die game with their first home playoff game in five years, they have a great chance to shock the world one more time.

Next up

2022 WNBA Playoffs -New York Liberty v Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s all on the line Tuesday night at Barclays Center. Tip after 9:00 p.m. ET. Pull up and show out, Brooklyn!