Pope, Madonna, Avengers force WNBA playoff scheduling issues

NEW YORK (AP) The Pope, Madonna and the Avengers are forcing the WNBA to get creative with its playoff scheduling.

The New York Liberty, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, will open at home on Friday against either Washington or Indiana. The Liberty can't play Thursday night because Madonna will be performing the second of two concerts at Madison Square Garden.

The Chicago Sky already have moved their opening game of the playoffs to their old home at the University of Illinois-Chicago because Marvel Universe Live! will be performing at the Allstate Arena from Friday to Sunday that week. They start setting up Wednesday.

It's not the first time that the Sky have had a conflict. Chicago played Game 3 of the WNBA Finals last year at UIC.

Los Angeles has to move Game 2 of its series with Minnesota out of the Staples Center to Long Beach on Sunday because the arena wasn't available. The Emmys are taking place that night near the arena. The Phoenix-Tulsa series, which begins Thursday, has no conflicts.

''The scheduling conflicts with select arenas are far from ideal,'' WNBA President Laurel J. Richie said. ''We've had similar situations in the past, and we are working with our teams to reduce them in the future.''

Logistics could get more difficult in the Eastern Conference finals if New York advances. The Pope will be at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sept. 25. The building will be closed Thursday to set up and New York doesn't want to move the game to another arena.

The Liberty are hoping to move the first game of the conference finals up to Wednesday and play at MSG, but that would cause its own headache. If their series with Washington went three games, they would be forced to play back-to-back contests. Also the winner of Chicago and Indiana would have less than 24 hours to prepare and fly to New York for the series opener.

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