Is there anything more exciting in sports? One game, one matchup, one moment to rise, no more second chances, win or go home. This week the WNBA semifinal match-ups will be set in stone, but first, two Game 3 battles will determine who is worthy of advancing to the semifinals.
The reigning champion Chicago Sky will be facing the underdogs, New York Liberty, in Brooklyn. The Sky-Liberty series finds itself in a winner-take-all Game 3 after the Liberty stole Game 1 in Chicago.
Mamba Mentality Helps the Liberty Stay Alive
Sabrina Ionescu, the Kobe mentee, went straight-up mamba mentality to finish with a game-high 22 points. A bound-to-be forever WNBA highlight, an over-the-shoulder no-look pass from Marine Johannes helped ignite the Liberty's rolling finish. Then in the last four minutes of the game, New York did what no one expected, beating the Sky at home in Chicago, 98-91.
The Sky collapsed in those final minutes, missing 10 of their final 11 shots. On the other end of the court, the Liberty went on a 13-0 run, outscoring the Sky 25-17 in the fourth quarter and squashing any further talk of then Sky sweeping.
"We battled through ups and downs," Ionescu said. "We came here and did what we needed to do and what nobody thought we could do."
Following the stunning loss, a focused and ferocious Sky came to play Game 2. Chicago dominated the Liberty, reminding everyone why they are here chasing a back-to-back trophy. The Sky's 38-point victory, 100-62, became the largest win margin ever in a WNBA playoffs game and solidified their trip to Brooklyn.
"Our backs was against the wall. I don't know how anybody else expected us to respond," said Chicago's Kahleah Copper.
Facing an elimination game, the Sky are on a roll. The last time the Sky lost an elimination game was during the 2020 "bubble" playoffs to the Sun. Does this give the heavy favorites an edge walking into the Barclays Center?
New York's Bright Lights Shine on the WNBA
The Liberty are used to being counted out this season, and we all know how dangerous a team can be in the playoffs when they feel like they have something to prove. Will this year's new format, giving New York home court advantage, play a part in who moves on to the semis? Also for your consideration, Game 3 will be played on Ionescu's mentor, Kobe Bryant's birthday. I'd wager Ionesco is thinking of nothing better than honoring his mentorship by winning such a monumental game on his birthday.
One thing's for sure, if the Liberty can get hot behind the arc, it's guaranteed to be a dramatic elimination game. They've stunned us before, the question is can they do it again, or are the Sky easily strolling off into the sunset with a win?
The winner of Tuesday's win-or-go-home will meet the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Connecticut Sun and the Dallas Wings.
MORE: The 2022 WNBA Playoffs are Must-See TV. Here's Why.
Enjoy all things sports?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.