Sabrina Ionescu Leads Liberty to Game 1 Comeback Win vs. Candace Parker, Sky

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 18, 2022

Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The defending champions are officially on the ropes.

The New York Liberty stunned the Chicago Sky with a 98-91 victory on the road in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series at Wintrust Arena on Wednesday. Since the first round is a best-of-three affair, Chicago will need to win two straight—including a decisive Game 3 on the road—to preserve its title defense.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

🚨 UPSET THE CHAMPS IN GAME ONE<br><br>Liberty steal Game 1 in Chicago<br><br>Sabrina: 22 PTS | 7 REB | 6 AST<br><br>Natasha Howard: 22 PTS | 7 REB <a href="https://t.co/TGsqFt2wPJ">pic.twitter.com/TGsqFt2wPJ</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

MARINE JOHANNES. <br><br>WHAT. A. PASS 🤯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/WNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WNBA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/PcRNiClUxi">pic.twitter.com/PcRNiClUxi</a>

ESPN @espn

Sabrina Ionescu is the first <a href="https://twitter.com/nyliberty?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nyliberty</a> player since 2015 with 20 PTS, 5 REB and 5 AST in a playoff game🗽<a href="https://twitter.com/sabrina_i20?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sabrina_i20</a> <a href="https://t.co/BqwForgA5M">pic.twitter.com/BqwForgA5M</a>

It seemed as if the Sky would cruise to a victory with a 91-85 lead with less than four minutes remaining, but New York closed the game on a 13-0 run.

Sabrina Ionescu led the way with a three-pointer and pull-up during that sequence and finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals behind 8-of-12 shooting from the field.

Her performance drew plenty of reaction:

Howard Megdal @howardmegdal

All year, Sandy Brondello has compared Sabrina Ionescu to Diana Taurasi. On the road, in the playoffs, you can see why. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBAPlayoffs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WNBAPlayoffs</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TheNextHoops?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheNextHoops</a>


2:01 left in the 4Q and <a href="https://twitter.com/sabrina_i20?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sabrina_i20</a> puts the <a href="https://twitter.com/nyliberty?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nyliberty</a> up 94-91 on the road ‼️ <a href="https://t.co/RxnvVGXXik">pic.twitter.com/RxnvVGXXik</a>

Ricky O'Donnell @SBN_Ricky

Five minutes into this series and I’m already terrified of Sabrina

Kalyn Kahler @kalynkahler

.<a href="https://twitter.com/maitreyiaa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@maitreyiaa</a> DID NOT TAKE ME SERIOUSLY WHEN I SAID I WAS CONCERNED ABOUT THE LIBERTY

Matt Ellentuck @mellentuck

the sabrina ionescu we've been waiting for is HERE <a href="https://t.co/yUHwYiUKf7">pic.twitter.com/yUHwYiUKf7</a>

Eden Laase-Derouin @eden_laase

We are blessed to be able to watch Ionescu and Vandersloot pass in the same game


SABRINA GOIN' DANCING 👏 <a href="https://twitter.com/sabrina_i20?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sabrina_i20</a><br><br>The #2 seed &amp; the #7 seed are trading buckets in the 1Q of the first round on ESPN 2 📺 <a href="https://t.co/FAfzLPQfx0">pic.twitter.com/FAfzLPQfx0</a>

Trendon Watford @trendonw

Nahhh Ionescu goin crazy 😭😭


.<a href="https://twitter.com/sabrina_i20?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sabrina_i20</a> wants the and-1 😤<br><br>We got a tough back and forth contest in the opening minutes on ESPN2 💪 <a href="https://t.co/7AZJkEkcPY">pic.twitter.com/7AZJkEkcPY</a>

The GIST USA @thegistusa


Ionescu used her speed to push the pace and was a willing passer whenever Chicago trapped and doubled her. Yet it was far from a solo effort, as Natasha Howard poured in 22 points while playing strong, physical defense throughout the contest.

Stefanie Dolson was also a matchup problem with her ability to stretch the floor from the frontcourt and added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Betnijah Laney did a little bit of everything on her way to 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

It was a rather shocking finish considering almost all of Chicago's star-studded roster seemed to be playing well for most of the game. Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper and Azurá Stevens all impressed at times, and the veteran group looked well on the way to another clutch playoff performance.

And then the Sky collapsed down the stretch.

The Liberty will look to close the series out in Chicago in Game 2 on Saturday.


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