The New York Liberty protected their home floor in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, but if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in four years, they're going to have to win at Connecticut.
The Liberty will have their first chance to do so Saturday, when the Sun look to stave off elimination and avoid being swept out of the first round for the first time in franchise history.
New York jumped out to a 24-11 lead after the first quarter and held on for a 72-63 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, led by Shameka Christon's 19 points and Cathrine Kraayeveld's 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"Anytime you get off to a start like that, it's great," Christon said. "It builds momentum."
With another victory, the Liberty would secure their first playoff series since beating Detroit 2-1 in the first round in 2004. But last year, they also won their postseason opener at home before losing twice on the road to the Shock.
Beating Connecticut may earn them a date in the conference finals with top-seeded Detroit, which is facing Indiana in a first-round series.
The third-seeded Liberty are hoping improved depth could help get them there. Eleven players saw action in the series opener, and nine averaged at least 12 minutes during the regular season.
"We are the deepest team in the league as opposed to last year when we had a rotation of seven or eight," Christon said. "That's going to be definitely key for us, the five starters as well as the next six on the bench. Everybody can come in and contribute, and we trust each other and we're very confident."
Connecticut may not be as sure of itself after dropping three of four to close the regular season before Thursday's defeat. The Sun shot just 37.5 percent from the field in Game 1, including a dismal 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range.
Tamika Whitmore led the team with 16 points but missed all four of her 3-point attempts, while Asjha Jones - the Sun's leading scorer in the regular season - was 4-of-13 from the field and scored 11 points, six below her season average. Guard Lindsay Whalen, who averaged 14.0 points this year, had just six.
"There are corrections we need to make," Whitmore said. "Our coaches know what they are and we know what they are. Other than that, we have to sweep it under the rug and move on to the next game."
The Sun are hoping to avoid consecutive first-round exits after winning at least one playoff series each of their first four seasons in Connecticut. They lost 2-1 to Indiana in the first round last year.
They're also looking for a boost at home after going 13-4 at Mohegan Sun Arena during the regular season. If they win Saturday, Monday's decisive Game 3 would also be in Uncasville, Conn.
New York has already won there this season, however, earning a 77-71 victory on July 15. That was the Liberty's lone win in three regular-season games against the Sun.