No upsets yet in the WNBA playoffs. All home teams and higher seeds prevailed in Game 1s.
While the No. 2 seed New York Liberty and No. 4 seed Dallas Wings were pushed by the No. 7 seed Washington Mystics and No. 5 seed Atlanta Dream, respectively, both the Liberty and Wings had second-quarter rallies that changed the momentum of the games.
Liberty get the last laugh
Washington held their own during most of the first half, but New York was inevitable on Friday night, winning 90-75 to take Game 1 of their first-round matchup.
Sabrina Ionescu was the best version of herself, scoring 20 points in the second half alone and ending the night with 29. Her seven 3-pointers are now the new Liberty record for made 3s in a playoff game.
oh man, this is a mighty tough bucket from Sabrina Ionescu pic.twitter.com/qv52OHUEct— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) September 16, 2023
It wasn’t just Ionescu out there; all key Liberty players stepped up. Betnijah Laney had 19 points and eight rebounds and Jonquel Jones had a double-double. Breanna Stewart had a quiet game, but still gave New York 10 points and eight boards.
Washington was in the driver's seat for most of the first half, but a 10-5 run to close the second quarter gave New York a four-point lead at the break; they never looked back. The loss is incredibly disheartening because so many Mystics had good performances. Myisha Hines-Allen balled out with 21 points, Brittney Sykes added 16 and Ariel Atkins contributed 14.
The result reversed how the regular season ended, when both teams played in New York and Washington won on a last-second Sykes bucket. Ionescu did not forget and was sure to mention it in her postgame interview. "They waved us off our home court last game," Ionescu said. "We gotta show them what that feels like."
Now Washington faces elimination on Tuesday, needing to beat New York in Brooklyn to keep their season alive. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Satou Sabally is good at basketball
Game 1 between the Dream and Wings was a thrilling, with standout performances from both sides. But when the dust settled, Dallas protected homecourt and won 94-82.
For the Wings, Most Improved Player candidate Satou Sabally dominated with 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting. Arike Ogunbowale was sensational with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Tierra McCowan messed around and got a double-double with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Atlanta never went away, but the turning point was a second-quarter collapse, where Dallas went on a 28-13 run, decimated the deficit and evened the score entering the third quarter.
The Wings outscored the Dream 28-13 in the 2nd quarter pic.twitter.com/b3rPrbLOqr— espnW (@espnW) September 16, 2023
Rhyne Howard made history, breaking the record for most points in a playoff debut with 36 points and shooting 61 percent from behind the arc. However, Howard wasn't left out to dry, as Allisha Gray scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds and Cheyenne Parker did all the dirty work down low, scoring 11 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and getting a pair of steals and blocks.
Unfortunately, with four minutes left in the game, Atlanta's offense completely stalled. Down by two points, the Dream failed to convert another field goal attempt, only managing two more points in the game. Dallas got a big 3 from Natasha Howard. Ogunbowale then hit a jumper and applied intense ball pressure to suffocate whatever life was left in Atlanta's dream of winning Game 1.
Both teams will have the weekend to rest as Game 2 is not until Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Despite the valiant efforts by both road teams, the favorites overwhelmed the underdogs in the second quarter to take control of the games. With New York and Dallas, there was a feeling that, once they got going, they inevitably would take over and put their opponent away. And while that is what happened, both losing sides got some great performances and have to think—if they could've just closed out the first half better—maybe things would've been different.