New York kept it close for three quarters, catching up every time Chicago started to pull away. Then the Liberty shut down the Sky with a record-setting defensive effort in the fourth quarter.
Cappie Pondexter scored 15 points to lead the Liberty past Chicago 59-49 Thursday, holding the Sky to a WNBA-record one point in the fourth.
"We just figured we can limit our turnovers, get some movement offensively and get more pressure defensively," Pondexter said. "We definitely did that in the second half. We got stops and we were able to get easy buckets in transition. They got a little frustrated on the offensive end and they didn't give energy defensively."
Nicole Powell added seven of her 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Liberty outscored Chicago 16-1 in the final period. Essence Carson added 11 points and Powell also had 10 rebounds for New York (12-8), which set the league record for fewest points allowed in a quarter and won for the eighth time in 11 games.
"I think our players got more invigorated, excited as we saw them wearing down," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "We finally wrestled the lead from them, we never had it until then and that probably empowered us somewhat and it probably discouraged them. That's what our defense is meant to do."
Sylvia Fowles scored 11 points to lead Chicago (9-12), which missed all 10 shots from the field and had nine turnovers in the fourth. The Sky, losers of four of their last five, finished 18 for 53 (34 percent) on field goals and had 22 turnovers.
"We just weren't doing what we needed to do," Fowles said. "The defensive pressure picked up in the fourth quarter and we just couldn't handle it. ... We didn't get what we normally get like in the first three quarters, and that's what happens when you don't progress in the fourth quarter."
Trailing since the opening minutes of the game, New York opened the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run. Leilani Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and Alex Montgomery made a layup to tie the score at 48 with 7:47 to go in the fourth quarter. It was the first tie since 2-2.
Powell had a 3 with 5:16 left to give the Liberty their first lead of the game. The Sky had a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play and Powell's layup extended New York's advantage to 53-48.
Epiphanny Prince made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:23 remaining for Chicago's only point of the fourth quarter, pulling to 57-49. The Sky had missed seven field goals and had seven turnovers in the period to that point.
"I don't know if we played that well defensively in any single game this season," Pondexter said "To see that just shows you how we're staying with our game plan, how hard we're working, and how much we're believing in Coach Whis' defense."
The Liberty were held under 60 points for the third time this season, and they lost the previous two — 79-58 against Atlanta on June 14 and 68-59 against Connecticut on July 15.
"I think they're one of the hottest teams in the league right now," Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said of the Liberty. "They scored 59 points at home, and we're a bad road team, you're supposed to win. ... (Holding them to) 59 points is enough to win on the road."
After Pondexter's 3 pulled the Liberty to 28-26 in the opening minute of the third quarter, the Sky used a 10-2 run to pull away and take a double-digit lead. Snow had two jumpers during the spurt, and Dominique Canty's layup with 4½ minutes left in the period extended the Sky's lead to 38-28.
New York chipped away with a 13-4 run as six different players scored, with Plenette Pierson's jumper cutting the deficit to 42-41 with 1:14 to go in the third. Shay Murphy had a layup and four free throws in the final minute of the quarter to give the Sky a 48-43 lead heading to the fourth.
The Sky led 26-23 at halftime. Pondexter's potential tying 3-point heave from near midcourt was ruled after buzzer, and the call was upheld on video review.
The Liberty got off to a slow start, missing 14 of their first 18 shots. The Sky took advantage, using a 17-6 run to take a 22-10 lead on Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton's second basket of the second quarter with 7:34 remaining in the period.
New York recovered to make five of their next 11 shots in a 10-0 run to pull within two with about 2½ minutes left in the first half. Fowles' layup with 2:22 to go ended Chicago's scoring drought of more than 5 minutes.