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Sky beats Fever in season opener

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Elena Delle Donne had 23 points, Jessica Breland added 13 and the Chicago Sky beat the Indiana Fever 74-71 on Friday night in their WNBA season opener.

Natasha Howard had 16 points and Shavonte Zellous added 14 for the Fever, who led by 18 points in the first quarter.

Indiana had beaten the Sky in 11 of the last 12 meetings, including a two-game sweep in last year in the s playoffs.

Chicago took its first lead, 65-63, since the opening seconds on Jamierra Faulkner’s layup with 6:28 left. Faulkner scored five points during the Sky’s 9-0 run.

The Fever’s Briann January hit a jumper to tie it at 65 with 3:20 left. She later made a layup for a 71-67 Indiana lead with 1:47 left.

Delle Donne hit a jumper to cut it to 71-69.

After a loose ball foul, Indiana’s Erlana Larkins was called for a technical with 1:08 left. Delle Donne and Breland combined for three free throws for a 72-71 Sky lead.

Shavonte Zellous missed a three-pointer with 11.7 seconds left.

Chicago’s Sasha Goodlett hit two free throws with 11.1 seconds remaining. Marissa Coleman missed a 3 before the buzzer.

Delle Donne, the 2013 WNBA rookie of the year, had 16 points in the second half.

The Sky shot 38.5 percent from the field to Indiana’s 37.5 percent. Chicago went 22 of 26 from the free-throw line.

Both teams were missing key players. The Sky’s Sylvia Fowles (hip surgery) and Epiphanny Prince (personal reasons) were out. Olympian Tamika Catchings (sore back) and Layshia Clarendon (concussion) were not with the Fever.

The Sky went 24-10 to win the Eastern Conference last season. They reached the playoffs for the first time but were swept by Indiana in the first round.

After the Sky cut the lead to three, Indiana went on an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 58-47 in the third. Howard scored six straight points. The Fever held a 61-56 lead after the third.

Indiana led 46-36 at halftime. The Fever shot 50 percent from the field to Chicago’s 35 percent. Zellous had 12 points and Coleman added 11 for Indiana. Breland led the Sky with nine points. Delle Donne added seven. The Sky pulled to within six after trailing by as much as 18.

The Fever led 30-14 after the first quarter after shooting 60 percent to Chicago’s 33 percent.

Breland and Goodlett played for Indiana last season.

Fowles, a 2013 All-WNBA first team forward/center who averaged 11.5 rebounds, is recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery and may not return until next month. Prince, who averaged 15 points, is expected to be back within the next two weeks.

The Fever lost to Atlanta in the 2013 Eastern finals after winning first title in 2012. Indiana is 27-7 in the regular season against the Sky.

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