WNBA

Fever 69, Liberty 63

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NEW YORK (AP)

The Indiana Fever have higher goals than just the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They want the best record in the WNBA and the home-court advantage throughout the postseason that comes with it. Tamika Catchings had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Katie Douglas also scored 17, and the Fever beat the New York Liberty 69-63 Tuesday night. Briann January added 12 points for Indiana (22-10), which had already clinched the top spot in the East. The Fever tied Phoenix for the league's best record. "We play a lot better at home and we've been struggling up-and-down on the road, so for us it would be a huge help to clinch overall (home-court advantage)," Catchings said. "We have two players on our team that have won championships - Tamecka Dixon and Tully (Bevilaqua). They talk about just having home-court advantage all the time, and obviously Katie (Douglas) with Connecticut, talks about the impact of not having home court." Dixon won two titles with Los Angeles in 2001-02, and Bevilaqua one with Seattle in 2004. Douglas and the Sun fell short in finals appearances in 2004-05. Indiana, which finished the regular season a league-best 14-3 at home, closes with games at Chicago on Thursday and at Connecticut on Sunday. The Fever won their second straight since their roughest stretch of the season in which they lost five of six. Douglas missed two games in that stretch because of an ankle injury, but has averaged 14.5 points in two games since returning. "We're still fighting for the overall best record with Phoenix," Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. "We're also fighting to play excellent basketball as we go into the playoffs. We want to get better, we want to get our bench quality minutes, and we want to be on a roll as we go in." January scored six points in the final 4:55 as the Fever closed the game with a 10-4 run and swept the three-game season series against the Liberty - winning every matchup for the first time. "January does not play like a rookie, she looks like a veteran out there," Dunn said. "The good thing we've done this year is give her a lot of quality minutes, put her in in tough situations, in crunch time, and she's really continued to develop her confidence as we go along. In crunch time we want the ball in her hands and we want her taking shots. That takes some of the pressure off Catchings and Douglas." Essence Carson scored 17 points, Ashley Battle had 12, and Janel McCarville added 11 for New York (12-20), which has lost three straight and four of five. The Liberty, missing All-Star forward Shameka Christon (flu) have already been eliminated from postseason contention. "Everybody played hard, top to bottom," McCarville said. "It could have been easy for us to fold, but we kept in the game throughout, made them work for everything they got." Trailing by 10 points late in the third quarter, the Liberty used a 9-2 run to pull to 52-49 on two free throws by Battle in the opening minute of the fourth. Kia Vaughn had a layup, and Battle made two more free throws to pull New York within three with 8:25 to go. Battle tied it at 57 with a driving layup with 7 minutes left. She was fouled on the play but missed a potential go-ahead free throw. "I saw the team play with a lot of heart," interim Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "I would like to see this team finish on a high note. We have not had a lot of that during the season." January's jumper gave Indiana a 61-59 lead with 4:55 left and the Fever didn't trail again. Catchings' layup stretched the lead to four with 3:38 to go, and neither team scored until January's layup with 48 seconds left made it 65-59. Douglas' layup in the opening minute of the third quarter extended Indiana's advantage to 35-23, its biggest margin of the game. The Fever used an 11-0 run in the first quarter to take the lead for good. Ebony Hoffman scored the final seven points of the spurt, hitting the tiebreaking jumper with 5:47 left in the period and stretching the lead to 13-8 with a three-point play a minute later.

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