Liberty Game Will Feel Like Playoffs

Following Sunday’s huge win against Los Angeles, the Chicago Sky have eight games remaining in the season – an eight-game audition to see whether they’ll be cast in the 2012 WNBA playoffs for the first postseason appearance in franchise history. Each contest grows more meaningful than the last as the Sky look to fend off the New York Liberty for a tenuous hold on the fourth and final spot in the Eastern Conference seedings. Should the two finish the season in a tie, the winner of Friday’s game at New York not only determines who goes dancing and who stays home, but they’ll have the inside edge as the frontrunner of a thrilling race to the finish.

For both teams, wins have been tough to come by in the dog-eat-dog East. Following a brutal stretch of nine games in 16 days, Chicago will certainly enjoy the next five days before facing the up-and-down Liberty, who haven’t won more than three in a row all season. The Sky welcomed the return of one of the league’s top scorers in Epiphanny Prince on Aug. 17 after she overcame her foot injury. The extra time off this week should allow Prince and her teammates some much-needed R&R to regroup and finish the season strong.

Currently in the midst of a six-game home stand, New York hopes to make a final push before embarking on a three-game road trip at the end of the season. Prince’s New York counterpart, Cappie Pondexter, has climbed the leaderboard to No. 2 among scorers in the WNBA with her 20.7 points per game. The 5-foot-9 guard’s play has been remarkably consistent since the league reconvened after the Olympic break, as she’s averaged nearly 23 points on 50 percent shooting. New York’s presence in the paint, however, has been a different story. The team’s second-leading scorer, Plenette Pierson has been in a slump lately, including a 1-for-8 performance against Indiana on Thursday. Center Kia Vaughn (7.1 points per game) hasn’t scored more than five points in the last five games.

The Sky hope to take advantage of New York’s inside game, especially if they have superstar Sylvia Fowles at full strength. Backup center Carolyn Swords has shown a capable understudy, scoring in double digits against Connecticut twice last week. Besides slowing down Pondexter, the Sky will look to get New York to cough up the ball early and often. In the Liberty’s last three wins, New York averaged just nine turnovers per game. But in their last four losses, they averaged 20. The Liberty allow nearly 80 points per game, so scoring opportunities should be plentiful for the Sky’s Swin Cash, Shay Murphy, Sonja Petrovic, Courtney Vandersloot and Tamera Young.

Don’t miss the Sky’s historical race for the postseason by tuning into Comcast CN100 for all the action at 6:30 p.m. CT or watch the game on WNBA LiveAccess via www.chicagosky.net.