Chicago Sky
(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

A pair of New York Liberty debuts, solid as they were (including Kia Nurse), were sullied by a loss as the ladies start the new year 0-1.

The Kate Smith era opened with blue skies, but, alas for the New York Liberty, only for their aptly named opponent.

Behind 22 points from Allie Quigley, the Chicago Sky opened Wintrust Arena with an 80-76 win on Sunday night. The loss spoiled not only the first game of the head coach Katie Smith era, but also a solid debut from first-round selection Kia Nurse.

Three Stars

3rd Star: C Tina Charles

If anything, Sunday night proved that the Liberty can survive when their superstar center isn’t at her best. Charles looked a little bit rusty, shooting 8-for-20, was forced into some contested jumpers, and spent part of the second half in foul trouble, but still managed to lead the team with 19 points.

2nd Star: C Amanda Zauhi B.

With the Liberty limited to nine players thanks to lingering injuries (Epiphanny Prince, Brittany Boyd) or international commitments (Kia Stokes), they needed as much production as they could from their Chicago roster. Zauhi B. more than delivered, putting in second-chance opportunities, and even banking in a clutch triple to prevent the Sky from pulling away. She finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds.

1st Star: G Kia Nurse

Not in the starting lineup for her WNBA debut, Nurse made the most of her chances once she got into the game. The first half allowed her to showcase her shooting, putting in 11 points to create a manageable halftime deficit (she wound up with 17 total). While baskets didn’t come by as easily in the latter stages, Nurse notably set a pick that led to a four-point play, and also wrecked havoc on the opposition on defense, creating frustration and diving for loose balls. She also displayed a solid interior game, earning some difficult scores.

What Decided It?

Though the Liberty (0-1) fell behind in the third quarter thanks to 5-of-17 shooting, they were able to get to the point they were trading the lead with the Sky in the fourth. Down by three with just under three minutes to go, a Bria Hartley drive was blocked by Cheyenne Parker. On the ensuing Chicago possession, the Liberty forced a jump ball and an ensuing missed shot, but failed to get the rebound, and Parker later put in a layup for the 78-73 lead. The Liberty failed to get another shot in until the final seconds, and by then Chicago had pulled away.

What’s Next?

The Liberty will play their first game at Westchester County Center on Friday night, as they open Memorial Day Weekend with a showdown against the Minnesota Lynx (7:30 PM, MSG+).

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