Pondexter wins Liberty debut, 85-82 over Sky
NEW YORK (AP) — Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points, Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 20 and the new-look New York Liberty beat the Chicago Sky 85-82 on Sunday to win their season opener.
Nicole Powell and Essence Carson added 11 points each for New York and Leilani Mitchell had nine assists. Pondexter, McWilliams-Franklin and Powell were all making their Liberty debuts after being acquired in the offseason.
Sylvia Fowles scored 23 points to lead the Sky (0-2), who opened the season with a loss at Connecticut on Saturday. Dominique Canty had 12 points and nine rebounds.
McWilliams-Franklin made three free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal it after Chicago rallied from a 16-point deficit to tie the score late in the fourth quarter.
Cathrine Kraayeveld had 11 points and Shameka Christon added 10 in their first game at Madison Square Garden since being traded to Chicago in the offseason three-team deal that brought Pondexter to New York from Phoenix. Christon and Kraayeveld received a strong ovation from the crowd during pregame lineup introductions, and again after a video tribute during a timeout midway through the first quarter.
Erin Thorn, another former Liberty player, also had 11 points.
After trailing by 16 late in the third quarter, Fowles' layup with 3:05 left in regulation tied the score at 76. Pondexter followed with a jumper and Carson made two free throws to give New York a four-point lead.
Fowles had a three-point play to pull Chicago to 80-79 with 1:43 to go. Pondexter hit one free throw and McWilliams-Franklin made two to put the Liberty back ahead by four.
After Canty's 3 got the Sky within one with 2.4 seconds to go, McWilliams-Franklin closed it out at the line with 1.8 seconds left.
The Liberty took control with an 18-0 run in the third quarter. Carson started it off with a jumper that tied the score at 52 with 6:14 left, and Pondexter had consecutive three-point plays to push New York's lead to 68-52 with 1:06 remaining.
Sandora Irvin made a jumper with 36.9 seconds for Chicago's first score since Christon's 3 with 6:30 left.
After Pondexter's jumper restored the Liberty's 16-point lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Sky scored 12 consecutive points to pull to 70-66 with 7:24 to go. Thorn started the run with a 3 and capped it with a jumper, and then made a free throw to cut Chicago's lead to 74-71 with 5:34 remaining.
Pondexter hit another jumper to extend the Liberty's lead to five, but the Sky scored the next five points to tie the score 76-76 on Fowles' layup with 3:05 left.
Powell made her second 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Liberty a 47-45 at the break. McWilliams-Franklin led the way with 14 points in the first half, Pondexter had nine and Powell eight.
Fowles led Chicago with 13 points in the opening half, and Christon and Perkins each had seven.