Cappie Pondexter keeps saying she wants to bring a championship to "this city." This city, because, that other city - the Phoenix franchise where she played for four seasons - took home the coveted title in 2007.

"I want to be the one to do it," she said. It's no surprise that a star like Pondexter would want to be the one to break down that invisible ceiling.

The Liberty, the only one of the WNBA's remaining three original teams to not win a championship, took one step closer Wednesday after a comeback win over the Indiana Fever.

The next challenge, a best-of-three Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Dream, is a daunting one. Can Pondexter, Leilani Mitchell, the league's official Most Improved Player, and that surprisingly productive bench push aside the same team that manhandled No. 1 Washington?

Key players

Pondexter is the biggest target but, even with extra attention, the dynamic guard is often too much to be contained. Count on Pondexter getting her points, but the Liberty's success no doubt will hinge on its reserves.

Kia Vaughn stepped up in Game 3 against Indiana, but it's Essence Carson who has really turned it on. She totaled 48 points in the three-game series. Leilani Mitchell has regressed after a spectacular regular season, not scoring in Game 1 and totaling seven points in the next two games. The Liberty relies on Mitchell, who leads the league in three-point shooting, to turn it on behind the arc.

Angel McCoughtry is the big name out of Atlanta, averaging a little more than 24 points this postseason. Iziane Castro Marques also turned it on, with 19 points in Game 1 and 21 in Game 2.

Home-court advantage

With the higher seed, the Liberty will host two of the possible three games, and wouldn't have it any other way. The team has flourished in the Garden, winning its last 11 at home and posting a .762 winning percentage overall in New York. It's last two home games against Indiana were decided by one point and three points. Atlanta, meanwhile, is 10-9 on the road.

Tight spots

The Liberty is 7-2 in games won by fewer than five points, and six of those wins came at home. All but one of Atlanta's four wins in the month of August have been decided by 15 points or more - the last two, against Washington and Chicago, by 24 points each. The Dream is a quick, aggressive team that favors long runs and streaky play. If the Liberty can cut down its points in transition and confine them to a half-court game, it should be able to gain the advantage.

On the offensive

The Dream not only buried the Mystics more than a week ago. It had enough time to dance on the grave. Why? That irrepressible offense. The team averages 98 points per game, second only to the Phoenix Mercury, and blew out first-seeded Washington, 101-77, on the strength of a 26-point run that began in the first quarter and lasted deep into the second.

The Liberty, meanwhile, has averaged 76.3 points with only two players, Pondexter and Carson, averaging double digits. Pondexter, however, continues to be the Liberty's game changer - her 27.3 ppg is second in the league and her 30 points in Game 1 against Indiana set a franchise postseason record. Incidentally, the Dream's McCoughtry is third with an average of 24.5.


In addition to having one of the best offenses in the league, the Dream also leads the league in rebounds. It averaged a league-high 43 rebounds and is led by Sancho Lyttle, who averaged 9.5 boards. The Liberty has the dominant tandem of Janel McCarville and Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

McCarville leads the team with 200 rebounds this year, but sprained her ankle the morning of Game 3 Wednesday. She is questionable for Game 1. Right behind her, McWilliams-Franklin, an 11-year WNBA vet, has averaged 8.7 rebounds. If McCarville can't play, look for Kia Vaughn, who had 13 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's clincher, to fill her shoes. The Liberty held opponents to an average of 74 points; Atlanta allowed an average of 83.5.