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Sky-Liberty Preview

AP - Sports

The New York Liberty acquired one of the WNBA's marquee players in Tina Charles just before this season, and they'll have a fitting stage to showcase her talents.

The Liberty make their return to Madison Square Garden after three years in New Jersey with Saturday night's matchup against the short-handed Chicago Sky.

With Charles' eager to return to her hometown and Connecticut looking for more depth, the Sun sent the 2012 MVP to the Liberty on draft night for Kelsey Bone, Alyssa Thomas and a first-round selection in 2015.

Charles, who starred at Christ the King High School in Queens, came to New York having averaged 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in her four seasons in the league. She had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds in her Liberty debut Friday, a 75-54 victory over her former club.

Cappie Pondexter had a team-best 17 points as New York took its first step toward returning to the postseason after ending a three-year streak in 2013 with an 11-23 finish.

"It was a great collective win," Charles said. "You don't see it a lot where you have a game where all 11 players can play."

The Liberty haven't opened with back-to-back victories since 2011 and a return to the "World's Most Famous Arena" will likely generate plenty of enthusiasm. New York was forced to play at the Prudential Center while the Garden underwent a $1 billion renovation.

"The fact that I'll be able to say when I'm retired, God willing, that I was able to play at the Garden as a part of the New York Liberty is just a blessing," Charles said.

Charles might have a chance at a better performance Saturday against a Sky team that's missing two-time defensive player of the year Sylvia Fowles and guard Epiphanny Prince. Fowles is not expected to return until next month at the earliest after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery, and Prince is slated to miss at least two weeks due to personal reasons.

With those key players out, the Sky will likely lean on 2013 rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne in the early going. Delle Donne, who averaged 18.1 points in her first season, had a team-best 23 points in a 74-71 comeback win over Indiana in Friday's season opener.

Delle Donne scored three of her team's seven straight points to end the game, erasing a four-point deficit with 1:47 to go. The Fever led by as many as 18 in the first quarter, but were held to 25 points in the second half.

"Early in the season, teams are incorporating new players and trying to find rhythm," coach Pokey Chatman said. "You need to make sure you have the defensive intensity turned up and you're locked in."

Chicago has won six in a row over New York, including a sweep of last season's five meetings. The Sky have also claimed four straight road games in the series.

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