Two of the hottest teams in the WNBA showed up at Prudential Center yesterday for a key Eastern Conference game.
Well, actually only one team showed up.
The Chicago Sky won their sixth straight and snapped the Liberty’s three-game win streak with a 73-64 victory that suggests which team will be a force in the second half of the season and which still has a lot of work to do.
Chicago held the Liberty to less than 20 points in each quarter by playing the kind of smothering defense the Libs had hoped to play this year.
Of course, Chicago can dig in on defense because with New York City prep star Epiphanny Prince, the Sky will always have scoring. Prince led the Sky with 26 points and was four points shy of becoming the first player in league history to score 30 or more in four straight games.
The Liberty (3-6) were led by Cappie Pondexter’s 22 points, but she was held to 8-of-20 shooting and was just 1-of-5 on 3-pointers.
The Sky held the Liberty to 14 points in the first and 13 points in the second, taking a 38-27 lead to the locker room.
The Liberty went into the game allowing 82.1 points, the most in the Eastern Conference and third most in the league. Their defense was better but it couldn’t match Chicago’s.
“We just weren’t sharp,’’ said Liberty coach John Whisenant. “We were a step slow on loose balls, offensively we were standing like we were running in mud and defensively we tried at times and bothered them a little bit, but we just couldn’t maintain it.’’
Whisenant pointed out this was the team’s fifth game in eight days. The Sky played just twice during the same time frame. But Chicago coach Pokey Chatman has gotten her team to buy in to defense for exactly the kind of scenario the Liberty couldn’t handle. Some nights the legs are weak and/or the shots don’t drop. Defense is a constant.
“Thank you for saying that,’’ Chatman said when told her team’s defense was impressive. “Sometimes as coaches we’re never satisfied.’’
“It’s not a speech. It’s not a rah-rah.’’
The loss was the first for the Liberty since June 2, a 91-68 loss at Indiana. Chicago’s 6-1 start is its best ever.