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Elena Delle Donne scores 23 in Sky’s season-opening victory

ROSEMONT IL - MAY 16: ElenDelle Donne #11 Chicago Sky battles for positiwith MarissColeman #25 he IndianFever during game May

ROSEMONT, IL - MAY 16: Elena Delle Donne #11 of the Chicago Sky battles for position with Marissa Coleman #25 of he Indiana Fever during the game on May 16, 2014 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Updated: June 18, 2014 6:22AM

Without reigning defensive player of the year Sylvia Fowles and starting guard Epiphanny Prince to start the season, things won’t be easy for the Sky.

The season-opening 74-71 victory Friday over the Indiana Fever was ­especially difficult.

After trailing by 18 in the first half, the Sky took their first lead since early in the first quarter on guard Jamierra Faulkner’s layup with 6:28 left.

Indiana regained the lead and led by four, but Elena Delle Donne’s free throw after a Fever technical with 1:08 left cut the deficit to one. Two free throws by Jessica Breland gave the Sky a 72-71 lead.

The Fever’s Shavonte Zellous missed a three-pointer with 11.7 seconds left. Sky center Sasha Goodlett then made two free throws, and when Marissa Coleman’s desperation three fell short, the Sky had prevailed.

“I was irritated with the fact that even when we scored, they seemed to be in fifth gear, and we were in fourth,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “We finally got to overdrive, and that was the difference in the game.”

Delle Donne, the league’s rookie of the year in 2013, will have to shoulder an even bigger load without Fowles and Prince.

She made her first basket with 6:27 left in the first half but still had a game-high 23 points. Delle Donne was backed by Breland’s 13 points and six blocks. Natasha Howard led the Fever with 16 points.

“In my first game last year, I was kind of shocked at how open I was,” Delle Donne said. “This year, they were focusing a little bit more on me, so I just had to continue to attack but be aggressive and see the open man.”

Delle Donne struggled early, and the Sky had trouble finding answers against the team that swept them from the playoffs last year. The numerous new faces and the holdovers from last season’s 24-10 team hadn’t meshed yet.

They did when they had to.

“I thought it was a nice team effort against a very tough team,” Chatman said.

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