Sky-Liberty Preview

The Associated Press

The last matchup of the season between the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky could be decisive in determining which of these teams reaches the playoffs.

The fourth and final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference will be on the minds of both clubs Friday night at the Prudential Center when they complete their season series.

New York (11-16) leads Chicago (10-16) in the race for fourth place. The Liberty have won two of three matchups can clinch the season series and tiebreaker Friday.

The Sky, who have never reached the playoffs, can move ahead of the Liberty with a victory and force the tiebreaker to be determined by conference record - New York is 8-11 while Chicago is 6-12.

The Liberty improved to 2-1 on a six-game homestand with an 87-59 rout of Phoenix on Wednesday. Plenette Pierson scored 17 points to lead five players in double figures.

The lopsided contest allowed coach John Whisenant to limit the minutes of his starters, with Cappie Pondexter logging the most among that group with 21. Second in the league with 20.1 points per game, Pondexter was only needed to score 10.

"We're trying to make a playoff push and our focus right now is to win the home games that are coming up," said Pondexter, averaging 22.0 points against Chicago this year. "We did a great job tonight. We came out in the game, everyone had an opportunity to play and everyone scored."

Chicago has not played since an 85-74 home win over Los Angeles on Sunday. Epiphanny Prince had 17 points and nine assists while Courtney Vandersloot added 15 and seven in the Sky's highest-scoring effort since July 7.

The visiting team has won all three matchups between the Sky and Liberty. Prince scored 26 points in Chicago's 73-64 victory June 10.

She was injured and sat out a 64-59 defeat July 6, as Pondexter led New York with 19 points. Pondexter had a game-high 25 points and Pierson added 21 in the Liberty's 77-67 win Aug. 21.

"We just have to lock in and focus and be ready for whatever they throw at us,'' Sky center Sylvia Fowles said of facing New York. "We need to look at some of the things we did well and some of the things we didn't do well and go from there."

Fowles leads the league in field-goal percentage at 63.8 and is second in rebounding at 10.8 per game.

The Sky are hoping Vandersloot can end her struggles against New York. The second-year guard is averaging 4.7 points and 22.2 percent shooting in the season series, while her 4.0 turnovers per contest is her worst average against any team this year.

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