New York Liberty forward Betnijah Laney and forward Breanna Stewart...

New York Liberty forward Betnijah Laney and forward Breanna Stewart react after their 87-73 win against the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Famous faces from basketball and beyond were looking on inside Barclays Center, from Jason Sudeikis to Joan Jett, from Tony Parker to Aubrey Plaza, from Michael Shannon to Robin Roberts and Sue Bird to Teresa Weatherspoon.

They were sitting among the largest crowd to ever see the Liberty play in their Brooklyn home, a home filled to the top with 17,143 fans. And what they saw Sunday had to make everyone wonder if this had become a seismic shift in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.

The Liberty put behind their bad work in the first two games in Las Vegas, turned in good work at both ends and took Game 3, 87-73. It was their first Finals victory since Weatherspoon sank “The Shot,” her buzzer-beating half-court heave in Game 2 against Houston in 1999.

But there was more.

Chelsea Gray, the defending champion Aces’ ace point guard, got hurt while playing defense and limped off with 4:15 remaining. The 2022 Finals MVP then hopped off toward the locker room, putting no weight on her left foot. She later was spotted on crutches.

Now comes Game 4 Wednesday night at Barclays. None of the previous 17 WNBA teams that were down 0-2 in a best-of-five rallied to win it, including eight in the Finals. Can the Liberty make history and claim their first league championship? They still have a decent shot.

“We talked about at the beginning of these playoffs, it’s a roller coaster of a train,” said Breanna Stewart, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds after being named to the All-WNBA first team before the game.

“Even though we were down, we wanted to continue to fight. We wanted to continue to have each other’s backs. We knew the fans were going to come out and support us like no other, and that’s momentum for us.

“And now coming away with the win for Game 3, we’re really happy to keep our season alive, but we know we have a lot of work left to do.”

So do the Aces.

If Gray is unable to play, coach Becky Hammon said Kelsey Plum will move from shooting guard, that the third member of their All-Star backcourt, Jackie Young, also could see some time at the point, and that Sydney Colson might get an opportunity.

“We do it by committee,” Hammon said. “I don’t think there’s any one person that’s going to step up and fill her shoes.”

Before Sunday, Hammon’s team was 7-0 in the postseason, with 11 straight wins overall.

“Things come up and you have two choices: You either stay down or you get up,” Hammon said. “I know this group will get up.”

The Liberty already did.

Actually, Jonquel Jones has been up the entire postseason. The 6-6 center is averaging 18.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in nine games. She hit four three-pointers en route to 27 points in Game 3.

“She was big for us,” coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re going to need her to do it again on Wednesday.”



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