Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals between the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty might have been unexpected. The second-seeded Liberty had their worst scoring night of the season, losing 78-63, while the third-seed Sun dominated defensively, potentially changing WNBA odds for Sept. 26.
The Liberty’s loss was even more surprising, given that they had swept the Sun in all four matchups during the regular season and covered the spread three times. However, the Sun quickly showed they were ready for this series, winning Game 1 in New York and taking a step toward a possible upset.
Sun Reliant on Defense
Going into halftime of Game 1, the Liberty had a 40-37 lead, but the Sun’s defense tightened up in the second half. Connecticut only allowed 23 points in the final 20 minutes, holding the second-highest-scoring team in the regular season to its lowest offensive output. The defensive effort in Game 1 might help change some WNBA betting lines for the rest of the series.
In the second half, Connecticut forced New York to shoot 21.6% from the field on 37 shot attempts, going 3 of 16 from three. The Sun drowned out the Liberty’s offense, forcing their top players into difficult shots. That defensive pressure, paired with DeWanna Bonner scoring 15 of her 20 points in the second half, led to the big win for the Sun.
The Connecticut Sun DOMINATE the second half to take down the Liberty in Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals 😤
20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks
18 points, 7 rebounds, 7-of-9 FG, 4-of-6 3PT pic.twitter.com/WpV1SWh3If
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 24, 2023
On offense, the Sun got enough scoring from Bonner and much-needed guard help. Rebecca Allen, a former player for the Liberty, had 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Natisha Hiedeman and Tiffany Hayes also had 12 points each. The guard play for the Sun will be crucial, needing them to hit threes and play reliable defense on the Liberty’s guards. Another good game for Connecticut’s guards could drastically shift WNBA odds for this series.
The surprising factor in Game 1 was that Alyssa Thomas did not have a fantastic game and the Sun still won. While she likely won’t win the MVP this season, WNBA betting might have favored Thomas in any other year. Thomas only scored eight points but had 10 assists and seven rebounds, close to a playoff triple-double.
Part of the lack of scoring for Thomas could be due to her effort on the defensive end, guarding the Liberty’s two bigs. She also played all 40 minutes in Game 1.
Liberty Stars Struggle
While the Liberty are not solely built around their star players, Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, and Jonquel Jones, it will likely be a challenging game when two of them struggle. Jones had a solid game with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double. However, Stewart and Ionescu could not get it going. The two combined for 28.2% from the field, far below what has become expected of the All-Stars.
Stewart got most of the attention from Thomas, who finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, forcing the Liberty’s MVP candidate to shoot 7 of 25 from the field, but still finished with 19 points. Ionescu only made 4 of 14 attempts, all from three, finishing with 12 points. It was far from the offensive performance to back the WNBA scores and odds on the Liberty.
A large part of the offensive struggles had to do with the Sun’s defense, but this was the third poor game for Stewart in the playoffs. She has yet to shoot over 40% from the field through the first three playoff games, going 1 of 17 from behind the arc. WNBA lines will still favor the Liberty but, eventually, Stewart needs to find her shooting touch.
On top of that, the remaining supporting cast on Liberty did not do much. Besides the big three of New York, four other players combined for 18 points. Crucially, Betnijah Laney, whose offense was influential in the two-game sweep against the Washington Mystics in the first round, only scored three points on nine shots.
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Liberty vs Sun Best Bet
After one of the Liberty’s worst games of the season on their home court, they will need to bounce back in Game 2 of WNBA bets. New York has proven throughout the regular season that they can beat Connecticut, doing so four times in the regular season and covering the spread in three of those wins.
In Game 1, the Sun got a lot of scoring help from their guards, which could die down in Game 2. On top of that, after an offensive struggle in Game 1, Stewart and Ionescu are bound for a breakout game in this series at home.
WNBA Best Bet: New York Liberty -8½ -115
Liberty vs Sun Game Information
• Game: Sun (27-13) vs Liberty (32-8)
• Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
• Day/Time: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET
• Liberty vs Sun Live Stream: WNBA.com