Liberty vs. Sky: 5th and Final Meeting

The New York Liberty are currently the #3 team in the Eastern Conference and tomorrow night they will take on Chicago, the #5 team in the EC, for the fifth and final regular season meeting.

The season series is tied 2-2 with the home team winning each.

The most recent battle between the Windy City and Big Apple came on Sunday night when the Sky edged out the Libs 76-74 after Epiphanny Prince hit a 3-pointer with :31 seconds left to seal the victory. Cappie Pondexter would put up a 3-pointer of her own with one tick left on the clock, but it would fall short.

After a weekend that highlighted losses by #1 Indiana to #4 Atlanta on Saturday and #2 Connecticut to league-worst Tulsa earlier Sunday, the Liberty had hoped to gain some ground on the top two teams with a win against Chicago. Instead, New York finds themselves two games behind the Sun and only half game up from the Dream.

With just five games remaining on the schedule, the Liberty's next two weeks are crucial as they will face Chicago, a home/away with league-leading Minnesota, then closing it out with Indiana and Connecticut. The only teams in the league that know their post-season fate right now are Minnesota, clinching the top seed in the West, and Tulsa and Washington - both eliminated.

Every game matters for New York right now, and no match-up is safe.

Here is a look at the tale of the tape for tomorrow's final bout with Chicago:

In 29 games, New York is averaging 75.58 points-per-game (ppg), holding opponents to a similar 75.27ppg, while Chicago is putting up an average of 74.86 points-per-game, keeping foes to 74.62 ppg- ranking #8 and #9 in each category, respectively.

When scoring 70 points or more in a game, the Liberty are 13-9 (59%), while the Sky are 13-7 (65%). But when each team's opponents score 70 or more points New York holds steady at 10-10 (50%), when Chicago falls to 7-12 (37%).

And talk about close games? The Liberty have a margin of victory of just 1.31 points, while the Sky are scathing by other teams by just 0.24 points. But while Sunday's contest was decided by only 2 points, the previous three meetings were decided by 12 points (June 17: CHI 85-73); 7 points (July 10: NYL 80-73); and 10 points (August 4: NYL 59-49).

Three-point shooting has been neck-and-neck with New York putting in 36% of their 3's and Chicago making 37%. From the charity stripe, the Liberty are 77%, while Chicago is 76%. And in the assist column, it's New York with 16 and Chicago with 16.5 per game.

Defensively, Chicago is 5th in the league averaging 34.55 rebounds per game, and 3rd in out-rebounding teams by 1.51 caroms per game. New York is 7th with 32.62 rpg and 7th with a 0.1 rebound differential. When it comes to blocks, the Sky is the limit. Chicago averages a league-best 5.72 blocks per game, while New York averages just over 4 bpg, good for 4th. And each team featuring quick hands averaging over 8.5 steals per game.

As for All-Stars, there are plenty. At this year's midsummer classic, Pondexter, Essence Carson, Sylvia Fowles, Courtney Vandersloot, and Prince were all Eastern Conference teammates.

Pondexter, the Liberty captain and likely MVP candidate, has led the team all season with her experience, passion and endless Top 10 plays. The New York guard is averaging 18.1ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.6apg, and 1.3 spg and has been a thorn in the side of defenses across the league.

And the firepower doesn't stop there for the Liberty, who have boasted an extremely balanced box score this season. Plenette Pierson (13ppg/4.9rpg), Carson (11.9ppg/2.9rpg/1.9apg/1.2spg), Kia Vaughn (10.1ppg/6.8rpg), and Nicole Powell (9.5ppg) have been the perfect complement to Pondexter's highlight reel.

Bur for Chicago, it's been Fowles who has stolen the show. "Big Syl" currently ranks #1 in the league in 12 different categories including points (578), field goal percentage (60%), and double-doubles (20), while posting 19.9ppg, 10.3rpg, and 2.2bpg. The star center has been dominant against New York this season including her most recent 17 point-14 rebound performance at home on Sunday. New York Coach John Whisenant said of the last game, "They got a lot of points in the paint and our defense shouldn't allow that."

The fifth and final bout between these two big city Eastern Conference foes will no doubt be a back and forth showdown on Tuesday night since these teams are so evenly matched. Last night likely came down to shooting %, with the Libs shooting 40% and the Sky shooting 49%. However, if the season series tells us anything about home court advantage, the Prudential Center will prove an unforgiving confine tomorrow night for Chicago. If you donít have your tickets yet, click here, as you wonít want to miss this one. If you canít be there, catch me in the studio with Liberty Legend and Ring of Honor inductee Sue Wicks on MSG Plus!