The WNBA playoffs tip off in earnest with the New York Liberty visiting the defending champion Chicago Sky at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena.
The Liberty (16-20) closed with three straight wins and a 6-2 record over their last eight to secure a playoff bid.
The Sky (26-10) dominated the season for most of the year before late losses to the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces led to Vegas getting the top seed.
WNBA Performance Recap
The Sky won the season series 3-1. However, not all parts were equal. The first meeting on May 11 was an 83-50 Sky victory.
The next three games were decided by eight points or less, including an 88-86 Sky win in New York on June 12, an 83-80 Liberty win in New York on July 23, and an 89-81 Sky win at home on July 29. The victorious team won the rebounding margin in each game.
Liberty vs. Sky Odds Breakdown
WNBA odds show the Sky are 8-point favorites with the over/under set at 165.5. Those have moved slightly from 7.5 and 165, respectively. The moneyline favors Chicago at -375 with the Liberty at +285 to win Game 1.
The over/under in the regular season series was 2-2. It went under 165.5 and 164.5 but went over 158.5 and 166.5.
Liberty vs. Sky Betting Preview
While basketball betting is sometimes difficult to gauge historical trends in the WNBA because of roster movement, the over is 12-4 in the last 16 meetings and 18-7-1 in the last 26 meetings in Chicago.
The fact that the home team in this year’s regular season series shows how important home court advantage is, though, from 2020-21, there were five straight wins straight up by the road team in the season series.
The Liberty have been subpar offensively, ranking ninth at 79.6 points per game and a 43.1% conversion rate from the field.
Their 35.1% 3-point clip ranks fifth, and 82.3% from the free throw line ranks fourth. They were the seventh-best rebounding team at 34.2 per game.
Defensively, though, is where New York excelled. The Liberty were sixth in allowing 82.0 points per game but held teams to 41.8% shooting from the field, the best rate in the league. Opponents also struggled on the perimeter, hitting 33.6% of 3-pointers.
Sabrina Ionescu is a star and averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. Forward Natasha Howard has been her co-star, providing 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
WNBA Injury Report
No player is listed on the injury report, meaning Brittney Laney, who played all of nine games and averaged 11.2 points per contest, should add another element for the Sky to prepare for.
New York was 18-17-1 against the spread and 17-19 on over/unders during the regular season.
The Sky have continually improved offensively despite ranking second for most of the year. They settled at 86.3 points per game and were the most efficient team, converting 48.1% of field goal attempts.
They, however, struggled on the perimeter, hitting 34.5% of 3-pointers to rank seventh. Their 82.3% free throw percentage was third. They also were sixth in rebounds per game at 34.8 per contest.
Defensively they allowed 81.3 points per game, ranking fourth, but their opponents were somewhat efficient.
The defense was a league-average sixth, allowing teams to convert 43.8% from the field and 34.0% from 3-point range.
Reining Finals MVP Kahleah Copper averaged 15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season. She was one of six to average double figures, including:
- Candace Parker (13.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.5 APG)
- Courtney Vandersloot (11.8 PPG, 6.5 APG)
- Allie Quigley (11.4 PPG)
From last season’s title team. Chicago added perennial winner Emma Meesseman (12.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.8 APG) to the frontcourt and Azura Stevens (10.6 ppg) on the wing to replace some departures from last year.
Chicago was 17-18-1 against the spread and 19-16-1 on over/unders.
Liberty vs. Sky Pick and Prediction
A WNBA 2022 Playoffs Round 1 Game 1 Score Prediction and available betting data show the Sky as against the spread favorites with 72% of public bets on them. Then 72% of public bets are also on the over.
While against the spread records are fairly even, making WNBA picks on the Liberty against the spread has been more cost-effective given their actual record.
As they showed most of the season, the Liberty and any team will have difficulties defending against the Sky’s balance offensively.
The best way is to limit turnovers and second chance opportunities so that Chicago has to earn all of its buckets.
Who to Bet On?
Adding Laney is huge for the Liberty offense. It gives them four double-figure scorers and takes a little pressure off Ionescu to do everything.
If she can stay on the floor and be a strong contributor, the Liberty may be more competitive in this series, as they showed down the stretch.
Final Score Prediction: Sky 86, Liberty 81
Pick: Liberty +10 (-110)