Chicago Sky beat New York Liberty for WNBA playoff record 38 to force Game 3

CHICAGO — Kahleah Copper’s double-digit burst in the first quarter immediately quelled concerns about her apparent ankle injury and helped lead the Chicago Sky to a record 100-62 rout of the New York Liberty in Game 2 from Saturday afternoon.

The 38-point win is the largest margin of victory in WNBA playoff history and forces the series in Brooklyn for a decisive Game 3 on Tuesday.

After the Liberty mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to win the opener on the road and put the defending champions on the brink of elimination, the Sky responded in dominant fashion to even the series. Chicago never trailed, leading by 24 points at halftime and scoring 100 points in a playoff game for the fourth time in franchise history.

“It was a wake-up call for us,” Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who finished with 16 points, said of the Game 1 loss. “We shouldn’t have had to have it, but we did, and it woke us up.

“We came into this game with a different mindset. We knew what got us through the regular season games wasn’t going to do the same in the playoffs. We were able to step it up another level and I think you saw a different team tonight “.

Copper, who finished the game with 20 points, set the tone from the start of Saturday’s game to help Chicago take control early on. He knocked down a 3-pointer for the game’s opening basket and scored the Sky’s first five points. Copper, the reigning WNBA Finals MVP, finished with 10 points in the first quarter, matching her highest scoring total in any first quarter this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Copper’s health for this game was in doubt after he left the end of practice Friday with a non-contact ankle injury, requiring assistance from teammates to get off the floor. Despite the incident, Sky manager James Wade repeatedly refused to offer any further information on his condition ahead of the game, reiterating ahead of Saturday’s game that he is “fine”.

“She came out aggressive,” Wade said after the game. “I think the world was turned upside down yesterday, so he came out and let everyone know that he’s still Copper.”

Copper added: “I was a bit upset about the loss but I think that’s me consistently every game. I definitely came into this game with a chip on my shoulder, you know, we lost at home in front of our home crowd which comes up constantly. and gives us everything. So it was important that we respond.”

And the Sky responded with overwhelming defensive pressure on the Liberty.

In the first half, Chicago forced New York into 13 turnovers, compared to just nine field goals. The Sky forced 14 total steals, one shy of the franchise record for steals in a playoff game, and outscored the Liberty 33-5 in transition and 60-24 in the paint.

New York had only two players, Michaela Onyenwere and Han Xu, finish in double figures. Meanwhile, Chicago neutralized Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu, who finished with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting with as many turnovers (3) as assists.

The Sky had much better success sending double teams to Ionescu in Game 2, limiting New York to 1-for-8 shooting (0-for-2-3) for two points and two turnovers on double teams compared to 6 for. -12 with 15 points and no turnovers in sending help in Game 1.

“Chicago responded the way championship teams respond,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “Our turnovers were really silly to be honest and a lack of ball movement. I just didn’t think we played together as a team.”

Chicago has won three straight elimination games, dating back to last year’s pair of single-elimination games they won en route to the championship. Despite being the top seed, the Sky will need to win on the road Tuesday to advance to the WNBA semifinals in the first season under the league’s new playoff format.

“We still have one more game,” Brondello said. “May the best team win.”

“If we play like this, it doesn’t matter where we play,” Wade added. “We can play on the moon, but we have to be who we will be. That will dictate everything.”

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