Sky Face Must-Win Game
When veteran guard Courtney Vandersloot hit a layup with 3:32 left to play, everything was going according to plan for the defending WNBA champion Chicago Sky in their 2022 playoff opener. Chicago led visiting New York by six points. However, Chicago would not score again.
Sabrina Ionescu had five points with Betnijah Laney and Natasha Howard added four points each as New York scored the game’s final 13 points to give the Liberty the 98-91 win. Now New York is a win away from its first playoff series win since 2015. Chicago must win the next two games to keep its hopes for back-to-back titles alive.
Chicago won the last three matchups with New York during the 2021 season by an average of 25.3 points. Two of the three games played between the teams during this regular season were decided by three points or less.
Chicago led the WNBA with a 14-4 record at home during the regular season while New York was 7-11 on the road. However, those numbers didn’t matter in Game 1.
The odds for Chicago to win the WNBA championship rose from +200 to +700 after the Game 1 loss according to the WNBA playoff odds. New York’s odds moved from +6600 to +4000.
The series price now has the Liberty at -105 to advance to the semifinals compared to -115 for the Sky.
Laney’s Presence Hard To Ignore
Betnijah Laney’s debut season with the New York Liberty was one to remember as she averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists to help the Liberty earn a playoff spot after missing the postseason in each of the previous three seasons.
Laney’s second season in New York was almost over before it began. She was injured after playing in four games. She would miss the next 2½ months of the season.
Laney returned in time for the Liberty to win their final three games in the regular season to claim the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. In the playoff opener, she had 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists in New York’s seven-point win. She provided offensive support for Sabrina Ionescu, the first Liberty player with at least 20 points and five assists in a playoff game since 2015, and Natasha Howard.
— ESPN (@espn) August 18, 2022
Something to consider for those who bet online, four of New York’s last five games went over the total.
Is 8 Enough for the Chicago Sky?
The Chicago Sky relied on an eight-player rotation in the playoff opener as starters
Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, and Candace Parker played between 30-31 minutes.
Azura Stevens came off the bench to score 16 points in 24 minutes, but reserves Julie Allemand and Rebekah Gardner combined for just two points in 26 minutes.
The good news is that Chicago was in a position to win the game midway through the fourth quarter. The concerning aspect is that it might be hard to change the momentum in the pivotal Game 2 with just one player contributing off the bench.
Allemand only scored six points in three games against New York during the regular season but Gardner averaged 11 points per contest against the Liberty so perhaps more production is coming after Chicago’s bench was outscored 31-18 by New York’s reserves in the playoff opener.
Chicago is 5-2 against the WNBA betting lines over its last seven postseason games.
Liberty vs Sky Game Information
- Game: Liberty 16-20 vs Sky 26-10
- Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago
- Day/Time: Saturday August 20th, 12:00 p.m. ET
- Liberty vs Sky Live Stream: WNBA.com
Liberty vs Sky Betting Lines
|New York Liberty||+9 -110||+350||168½-110o||80-115o
|Chicago Sky||-9 -110||-450||168½-110u||89-115o
Liberty vs Sky Prediction
New York finished the playoff opener like a team that had to finish the regular season with three straight wins just to reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Chicago dropped two of its final three games of the regular season.
Since Chicago beat New York 89-81 on July 29, Chicago is 4-4 while New York is 7-2.
While Chicago has won eight of the last 12 matchups with New York, the Liberty is 3-2 in the last five games played in Chicago.
There was a stretch when nine games in a row between Chicago and New York went over the total. More recently, four of the last six matchups finished under the total.
Vandersloot averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and only 1.3 turnovers in three games against New York during the regular season. Ionescu led the Liberty in scoring (15.5 points per game), rebounding (7.8), and assists (7.3) against the Sky. Both guards had key roles in the playoff opener. Ionescu tied for the team lead with 22 points while Vandersloot had 13 points and 10 assists.
Chicago is favored to even the series but the 9-point line seems a bit on the high side. The total is set for 168½, easily the top mark of the four games being played on Friday and Saturday.