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Liberty back in playoffs looking to topple defending champion Sky

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Liberty
BROOKLYN, NY – AUGUST 14: Marine Johannès #23 of the New York Liberty dribbles the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream on August 14, 2022 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

It wasn’t the perfect start to the New York Liberty’s season, but they’re in a much better place at the end of it than where they began it. 

For the second consecutive season, the Liberty punched their ticket to the WNBA postseason. Now they’ll face the Chicago Sky in a best-of-three series beginning on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. 

The Liberty are the seven seed and would only make their way back to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center if the series goes to a deciding Game 3. New York clinched their playoff spot on Sunday in their season finale with a win over the Atlanta Dream. 

Reaching the playoffs is a big enough feat for the Liberty, who started off the year going 1-7 before finally turning things around. They went 5-2 in the month of August which helped fuel the push into the postseason. 

Still, for head coach Sandy Brondello, there’s plenty of work to be done. 

“We want sustainable success,” Brondello told reporters on Sunday at Barclays Center. “This just gives us confidence as we move forward. We know there’s areas we still need to get better in, but it’s a start of a journey and hopefully, it will be a long one.”

The Liberty may be catching the defending WNBA champion Sky at the right time. Chicago has struggled in the season’s final month. The Sky went 3-3 in August, which was a rarity for Chicago who had lost four games total in June and July. 

Still, the Sky had gotten the better of the Liberty in four meetings with only one of them going in New York’s favor. 

New York will need its two biggest stars Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard to lead the charge once the playoffs tip off on Wednesday. Ionescu had a big August in which she was named the Eastern Conference player of the month and averaged 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 41.9% (44-105) shooting from the field. 

Howard averaged 13.8 points per game in the Liberty’s final seven games of the year and led the charge in with 18 points in Sunday’s win. 

Game 1 between the Liberty and Sky tips off at 8 p.m. 

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