The Chicago Sky stared down elimination by the New York Liberty on Sunday and replied with a resounding 100-62 victory in Game 2 of their first-round playoffs matchup, recording the largest margin of victory in WNBA playoffs history.
Kahleah Copper let the charge by the defending 2021 WNBA champions, recording 20 points, three rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes. Four other Sky players also scored in double digits, including starters Courtney Vandersloot (16 points, nine rebounds) and Candace Parker (12 points, 12 rebounds), while Azura Stevens and Rebekah Gardner added 14 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.
“I think that was as a complete game as you probably have seen from us,” said Vandersloot, who added four assists and three steals. “I think it shows what we’re capable of; it shows us where our expectations should be of ourselves.”
The rebound performance came three days after the Liberty took Game 1, 98-91, in Chicago on Wednesday in the opener of their best-of-three, first-round series.
ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: 2022 WNBA Playoffs — Schedule, results, scores, TV details and more
“They woke us up,” said Sky head coach James Wade told reporters after the game Saturday. “[New York] let us know that we have to come out with the intensity that we need to actually match who we are. And that wasn’t the case in the first game.”
Copper led the Sky from the start, opening the scoring with a three-pointer and recording the team’s first five points. She dropped 10 points in the first quarter, showing no signs of a reported ankle injury reportedly suffered toward the end of practice Friday.
“I just want my team to be able to know that if they call on me for a switch, or a matchup, or whatever, that I’m going to respond,” said Copper. “It was just important for me to do what my team needed. So that’s just what I did.”
“The attention to detail was so great, and the intensity was so great,” added Wade. “I thought we executed at a level where we didn’t make many mistakes. And when we did, we had people to back us up. And that’s what we have to be. There was a lot of trust out there on the floor, and they executed at a high level.”
Chicago raced out to a 31-10 lead in the first quarter, and the extended the advantage in the second period, taking a 52-28 lead into halftime. New York failed to gain any ground in the second half, scoring just 16 points in the third quarter while the Sky dropped another 31, however the Liberty did manage to edge Chicago in the final period, 18-17.
“I’m happy it’s a series,” said first-year Liberty coach Sandy Brondello. “Obviously, they had their backs against the wall, and this is what I expected from Chicago. I didn’t think it would be such a butt-kicking, but this is a championship team from last year and very experienced. They played extremely hard, and we couldn’t combat anything.
“I just think we went away from what we wanted to accomplish here, playing together as a team. And so it’s disappointing, but we still got one game and we get to go home.”
The Liberty were paced by Han Xu and Michaela Onyenwere, who both came off the bench and each scored 10 points. But they were undone by turnovers, committing 19 (compared to 10 for Chicago), which led to 25 points for the Sky.
Chicago’s stats tell more of the story, as they led New York 60-24 in points in the paint, 20-5 in fast-break points and 15-0 in second-chance points. Additionally, the Sky went 14-for-14 from the free throw line and tallied a current season-high 14 steals.
“Our turnovers were just really silly, to be quite honest,” added Brondello. “I just didn’t think we played together as a team; we got too one-on-one. We’re not built like them, we don’t want to have a capo that can drive by anyone, but our one-on-one defense has to be better. We just allowed players to just drive right by us. So, you know, we can be better.”
The Sky will face the Liberty in the decisive Game 3 on Tuesday in New York.
“It’s do-or-die,” said Brondello. “That should be motivation enough in itself. … These are the playoff series, and they don’t always go according to plan, but it’s wonderful to have the three games, because it’s just who makes the tweaks and can execute on that day, and that was Chicago today.”
The Sky is now 4-2 against the Liberty this season, winning the regular season series 3-1 including going 1-1 on the road at New York’s Barclays Center.