The last-place New York Liberty are hoping they can get back into playoff contention after starting a five-game homestand off on the right foot.
They could be facing the wrong opponent given their problems against the Chicago Sky.The Liberty have dropped eight straight against the Sky, who will have star center Sylvia Fowles available for the first time in this season series but will be without Elena Delle Donne on Friday night.New York (4-10) ended a five-game slide Sunday with an 85-78 home win over East-leading Atlanta. Cappie Pondexter had 23 points and eight assists as the Liberty took control after trailing by 11 points in the second quarter."It's great that we beat the top team in the East," she said. "I like having the ball in my hands whether it's scoring or getting my teammates involved."The Liberty are hoping to make a push. They are two games behind Chicago, which holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the conference."Hopefully this will be the start of a roll for us," Pondexter said. "We have five straight home games to get back into this."The Sky (6-8) have proven to be a formidable opponent. Their last loss to New York was a 77-67 defeat Aug. 21, 2012.Chicago has captured both meetings this season without Fowles, who had 17 points and nine rebounds Wednesday in her season debut in a 79-69 loss to Connecticut. She missed the first 13 games after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a hip injury.Delle Donne scored 13 points in that contest but is sidelined indefinitely because of a recurrence of Lyme disease. The reigning rookie of the year missed five games this month before playing against Connecticut, and said she wasn't feeling well after the game.The 6-foot-5 star, who is averaging 21.2 points, has returned home to Delaware.The Sky led by six at halftime on Wednesday before allowing the Sun to open the second half on a 22-2 run."You always have to give the opposition credit," coach Pokey Chatman said. "I thought we played a little bit slow in that third quarter, especially when you're coming off I think a really nice first quarter in which we put up 30."Delle Donne was also out the last time these teams met, a thrilling 105-100 overtime victory June 18. Epiphanny Prince scored a season-high 30 points in her first game of 2014 against New York after she missed the season's first seven contests for personal reasons.Former league MVP Tina Charles is averaging 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in the season series for the Liberty as she prepares to renew her rivalry at center with Fowles.