The 2023 WNBA semifinals will begin this Sunday, Sep. 24 when the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun take on the No. 2 seed New York Liberty. The game, which will be the first in a best-of-five series, will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and tip off at 1 p.m. ET.
Though the seeding would suggest an even matchup, the regular-season results between the Sun (27-13 in the regular season) and Liberty (32-8) were one-sided. New York won all four games played against Connecticut; some were close (a second-half comeback in May and an overtime nail-biter in August) and some were not (a 31-point blowout in September). But from almost every angle, the Liberty looked to be the superior team, outscoring the Sun by 18.8 points per 100 possessions.
In the playoffs, though, the slate from the regular season is wiped clean, and entering this semifinal series, both Connecticut and New York are playing some of their best basketball of the year.
What a duo @athomas_25:— WNBA (@WNBA) September 21, 2023
➡️ 28 PTS, 6 REB, 12 AST
➡️ Set WNBA playoff game record for points created with 58 PTS
➡️ 25 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST
➡️ 5th player in WNBA History to record 1,000 Playoff PTS
➡️ 7th All-Time in Playoff 3PM
2023 #WNBAPlayoffs | @google pic.twitter.com/cVKu6IGHy9
The Sun defeated the Minnesota Lynx in the first round of the postseason two games to one, and their two wins certainly seemed more convincing than their sole loss. Just as they did all season long, the Sun used superior physicality to grind down their opponent, led by forward Alyssa Thomas.
Thomas—who is being discussed among WNBA fans as a favorite to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award—has logged a league-record six triple-doubles in 2023, one of which came against the Liberty back on Jun. 27. She may seem like a one-player wrecking crew, but keep an eye on DeWanna Bonner, who is having perhaps her strongest season in Connecticut at 36 years old. Bonner led the Sun in scoring during the regular season at 17.4 points per game, and they’ll need every bit of that offense against the New York powerhouse.
Showed up in the biggest moment @breannastewart delivered a BIG TIME performance in Game 2, Round 1 #WNBAPlayoffs dropping 27 PTS, 9 REB, and 2 AST on the way to the semis— WNBA (@WNBA) September 20, 2023
2023 #WNBAPlayoffs | @Google pic.twitter.com/wMwmR2jv5l
The Liberty are fresh off a two-game opening-round sweep of the Washington Mystics, and, for the most part, have lived up to the preseason hype as a championship favorite. They too have an MVP candidate in Breanna Stewart, who in 2023 set a WNBA single-season record with four 40-point games. Sabrina Ionescu, meanwhile, has had a spectacular season shooting the basketball, leading the league with 3.6 3-pointers made per game and shooting a career-best 44.8 percent from long range.
With former MVP Jonquel Jones and All-Stars Betnijah Laney and Courtney Vandersloot rounding out the Liberty starting lineup, New York is a force to be reckoned with, and owning home court advantage throughout the semifinals will make the Liberty an even tougher out. Connecticut, too, is known as a notoriously difficult place to play, but the Sun ideally will need to win at least one game on the road in New York before heading home; otherwise, it will be an uphill battle to flip the script and upset the Liberty.
No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun (0-0) vs. No. 2 seed New York Liberty (0-0)
When: Sunday, Sep. 24 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY
How to watch: ESPN
Sun injury report: Brionna Jones (out; Achilles)
Liberty injury report: Han Xu (out; not with team)