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The Liberty stay alive in the playoff hunt

TRACY JUSAY Special to the AmNews | 9/2/2011, 11:32 a.m.

The New York Liberty better watch their backs, because the Atlanta Dream are breathing down their necks. After a promising road win in Phoenix last week, the Liberty continued their pattern of inconsistency and fell to the Chicago Sky 74-73 on Sunday night. The story has been the same all season long for this team, and it's starting to look like they could miss the playoffs altogether if they don't win their remaining games down the stretch.

While Cappie Pondexter is the Liberty's star-and, on some nights, the superhero of the team willing them to victory-having a reliable second and third option for scorers would definitely ease the load off her back.

Plenette Pierson and Essence Carson have been those options, and occasionally Nicole Powell will have a good shooting night. If the Liberty can find ways for those three to score along with Pondexter, as the season winds down, they won't have to worry about who is behind them in the standings, but who is ahead of them instead.

"We need more consistent scoring help, but this is a league that is very well balanced," said head coach John Whisenant. "We've got to play at our highest level. It's what we have to strive to do and try to keep our opponent from doing that."

On the night Kym Hampton was inducted into the Ring of Honor, the Liberty finished their season series against the Sky with a 71-67 win. With the team's playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the game was a crucial one.

After a dismal start in the opening minutes, the Liberty finally found their offensive rhythm midway through the second quarter. Both teams went shot for shot as halftime approached, and the Liberty went into the break down one. The second half told a familiar story, with the infamous third quarter Liberty lull.

With the deficit ballooning to as many as 13 late in the period, the Liberty had an uphill battle going into the final frame. A window of opportunity came with 5:13 left to play when the deficit was cut to four on a pair of Pondexter free throws, and the Liberty went on to capitalize down the stretch, securing the victory.

The Liberty face league leader the Minnesota Lynx this weekend for a home-and-home series, starting on the road this Friday night. They return to the Prudential Center on Sunday, Sept. 4.