The Liberty showed what they were capable of Sunday in the face of elimination by beating the Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
Still, the Liberty will face another test of survival Wednesday at Barclays Center when they again try to deny Las Vegas back-to-back titles, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
The keys remain rebounding, defensive transition, communication and overachieving in Sunday’s 87-73 victory, as head coach Sandy Brondello and his players said Tuesday before Game 4.
“You have to be dialed in if you want to play like we did the other day and that’s how we played all season,” Brondello said. “When we’re not, that’s when we’re not at our best. We’re too worried about our man and all that. No, we’re built (with) team defense. … We want to make sure we help.”
The Liberty overtook the Aces for the first time in the series and also took over Las Vegas on counterattack points (12-2).
“We know that to win we have to stop them in transition,” said replacement forward Nyara Sabally. “So that was one of our priorities. And just seeing that we executed that in the third game was a big thing that obviously contributed to our victory.
The Liberty will face a different team on Wednesday, as the Aces will play without guard Chelsea Gray and center Kiah Stokes, according to head coach Becky Hammon.
Both men suffered foot injuries and have not yet been diagnosed.
Hammon said their status for Game 5, if necessary, is “questionable.”
“Everyone is going to have a chance,” Hammon said of the adjustments his players will have to make. “Everyone will probably have a chance. Everyone must be ready to go, locked in.
She kept open the possibility of bringing in Candace Parker, who underwent surgery in July after breaking her foot, saying, “I have to see if I can be a good fit for her.” »
“They’re not going to take it easy and we’re not going to take it easy,” Brondello said.
Before the final, the Liberty had not suffered consecutive defeats or been eliminated.
In the first two games, they went through a rough patch, but responded by dominating Las Vegas at home, where the Aces have yet to win.
“I was pretty angry after the second game just because I knew we were better,” Brondello said. “They were the same. No different. They were mad as hell. Sometimes you just need to have a pattern interruption. So we don’t want to end our season like that and I knew after that we were locked in.
The only game between the two superteams decided by single digits was their last meeting before the playoffs began in late August. Since then, the finals have been anything but close, putting both defenses to the test.
“Every team is capable of breaking up at some point. There are these breaking points in the game where a team will run away,” Hammon said. “That’s kind of how it happened. … When you really have two explosive offenses, it’s about who makes the fewest mistakes defensively. And even if you do it right, they can still score and you have to be OK with that.
Hammon emphasized the difficult task of closing out a series no matter where you play, and Brooklyn gave the Liberty a good reception, selling out the largest crowd in WNBA history (17,143 ) for Game 3. Wednesday night should be similar. .
Additionally, it was the most-watched WNBA Finals through Game 3 in 20 years, the league announced.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen often in the WNBA,” Liberty backup center Stefanie Dolson said. “Good or bad, they were clapping. It was really fun to be a part of.