Liberty score final 13 points, beat defending champion Sky in playoff opener￼
Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu celebrates after the Liberty defeated the Chicago Sky 98-91 in Game 1 of a WNBA basketball first-round playoff series. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
CHICAGO — Sabrina Ionescu had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Natasha Howard also scored 22 points and the seventh-seeded New York Liberty beat the defending champion Chicago Sky 98-91 on Wednesday night in the opening game of the WNBA playoffs.
New York scored the final 13 points of the fourth quarter as Chicago missed 10 of its last 11 shots. Ionescu made a 3-pointer and a jumper from the free-throw line during the run, and Marine Johannes highlighted the spurt with an over-the-shoulder pass to Howard.
“We’ve been in this situation all year and early on we were losing these games,” Ionescu said. “But we found out what it takes to win and we showed that tonight. We gotta do it again.”
New York, which won its first playoff game since Sept. 23, 2015, will play Game 2 of the best-of-three series at Chicago on Saturday.
Betnijah Laney added 17 points and Stefanie Dolson scored 13 points for New York, which set a franchise scoring record in the playoffs. Dolson, a center, made 3 of 4 3-pointers to help the Liberty go 11 for 25 from distance.
Kahleah Copper led the second-seeded Sky with 21 points. Allie Quigley scored 18 points, Candace Parker had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Courtney Vandersloot added 13 points and 10 assists.
Chicago took its first lead of the second half, 74-73, with a second left in the third quarter on Emma Meesseman’s layup. Quigley sank a 3-pointer while being fouled and she made the free throw to give Chicago an 85-81 lead, and Parker added a putback on the Sky’s next possession for a six-point lead with 6:36 left.