Liberty celebrate relieving win over Sky
The New York Liberty got their second win of the season against the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. Unexpected? Yes. Undeserved? Not at all. The Sky were still without Azurá Stevens and Diamond DeShields, who are both out with injuries.
Amanda Zahui B started the game off strong with two three-pointers in the first quarter. It was Chicago, who build an early lead, though, working their way in front. It was 29–20, before Kylee Shook beat the buzzer from midrange to cut the deficit to 7. The Sky would then go on an impressive scoring run, mainly fueled by their excellent offensive rebounding. Those second chance points allowed them to blow the game open: Courtney Vandersloot and company were up 46–30, when the Liberty fought back. Zahui B and Jocelyn Willoughby led the charge for New York. The Swedish center took it to the rack with force, while the rookie chimed in with two triples. The former Virginia forward tied her career-high with 14 points, remaining perfect from the floor (5/5 FG, 3/3 3pt). The Liberty almost completely erased the deficit and cut Chicago’s lead to just 1, before Vandersloot broke the spell for the Sky and finished at the rim to make it 49–46 at halftime.
The game remained a close affair throughout the third quarter, neither team was able to build a significant advantage. At 77–76 New York, Shook knocked down another buzzer beater from midrange to end the quarter. Head coach Walt Hopkins started the final period with 3 rookies on the floor. The young players repaid the trust they were given and pulled ahead 86–78. Chicago struggled to get back into the contest, as the Liberty maintained their lead. Layshia Clarendon had a very efficient game, going 6/9 from the floor for 17 points and scoring a couple of big baskets down the stretch. Whenever the Sky threatened to edge closer, she’d answer on the other end.
Their superior individual quality allowed Chicago to catch up eventually. Allie Quigley tied her career-high 29 points (9/22 FG, 4/11 FG) to make it a 1-point game at 97–96 New York. Out of the timeout, Zahui B would find the cutting Kiah Stokes for an easy layup. Stefanie Dolson would answer with a three-pointer to tie the game at 99 apiece after being set up by Vandersloot, who had 9 assists on the night. New York got the ball back for a lost possession, though, which frankly was a wild one. It might not have gone according to plan, but in the end it was Clarendon who got fouled by Dolson after her floater. She’d go on to knock down both free throws to seal the win for the young Liberty squad.
For the Sky, this loss can be crucial down the stretch. The WNBA playoff system is not very forgiving for teams who “barely” make it to the postseason. Chicago really has to tighten up against weaker opposition if they want to secure one of the top spots in the league this year. They’ll get the chance to bounce back against Seattle, though, in a matchup of MVP candidates and title contenders on Saturday.
Aces overcome Wings
The Dallas Wings had finally gotten their #2 pick Satou Sabally back in their last game against the Sparks. After a weaker performance against LA, the 22-year old more than bounced back versus the Aces: She set a new career-high mit 28 points and made 2 three-pointers in a single game for the first time in her young WNBA career (4/9). The German forward was a beast on the offensive glass once more, grabbing 5 rebounds there as well as 6 on the defensive end. But despite her heroics, it was Las Vegas who came out on top. Partly because the Wings will have to finish the season without Moriah Jefferson and “Izzy” Harrison, who are both out with injury. But mainly because Las Vegas’ MVP candidate A’ja Wilson was ballin’ as well: The forward finished the game with 26 points, 9 rebounds and – probably most importantly – another win.
Both teams started the game with hot hands, going 8/14 and 8/13 from the floor. Dallas had already knocked down 5 three-pointers, before the Aces had even taken one. This onslaught from inside still only resulted in a 1-point Wings lead after the first quarter (24–23). Both Sabally and Dearica Hamby were great off the bench for their respective teams, while Marina Mabrey was doing her best James Harden impression: She went iso against Hamby and knocked down a stepback triple in last year’s Sixth Woman’s face. Bold. But watch for yourself.
Kayla McBride was also fired up on both ends of the court: She contained Arike Ogubowale as well as anybody in the WNBA could and chimed in with 10 points as well. Her and Hamby were part of a 11–2 Aces run towards the haftime buzzer, putting Las Vegas up 49–38. Jackie Young and Kayla Thornton traded threes, the latter even off the glass. At the break, the Aces led by 9, 52–43.
The Aces threatened to run away with the game in the third, when they extended their lead to 17 (66–49). The Wings had decided to live and die by the three, so it was their performance from outside that got them back into the game. A 7–0 Dallas run contained their 10th successful shot from long range of the night (10/24). At that point in time, the Aces had gone 2/4 and would only attempt (and miss) 2 more. Mabrey scored the last points of the quarter, when she drilled another three-pointer with the shotclock winding down to make it a 9-point game again, 76–67 Aces. Las Vegas had been to the free throw line 24 times by then, making 22, while Dallas was 9/13. The ability to get good looks close to the basket remains the focus of Bill Laimbeer’s team.
With 2:05 minutes left in the game, Las Vegas was still up by 10 and they looked like sure winners. But Sabally had different plans. She led her team back into the contest, making shots and drawing fouls. Suddenly it was 93–89 and moments later, the German knocked down a crazy shot from the corner off an inbounds play to make it a 2-point game with 2.8 seconds remaining. The Aces would manage to prevail, though, as Dallas’ push came too late. Las Vegas got their 10th win in 11 games, closing the gap to the Seattle Storm and contending for the top spot come playoff time. Dallas falls to 5–10 on the season, but is still in the hunt for a postseason spot. Neither Indiana nor Conencticut are out of reach and with Sabally back and playing great, anything’s still possible.