Liberty 83, Fever 75
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
After a bad loss to Minnesota, the New York Liberty were determined to make up for their poor play.
Essense Carson scored 18 points, Kia Vaughn had 15 points and nine rebounds, and the Liberty beat the first-place Indiana Fever 83-75 on Friday night.
New York was coming off an 86-68 defeat at home to the league-best Lynx on Sunday, two days after beating them on the road. The Liberty shot 1 for 19 from the field in the third quarter in the loss.
''That Minnesota game definitely wasn't our best game,'' Carson said. ''We had to really redeem ourselves on defense and on offense. So, that was more so our focus, really coming in here and playing the basketball that we know how to play. And we played that basketball and we came out with a win.''
Nicole Powell added 13 points, and Plenette Pierson and Cappie Pondexter had 12 apiece to help New York (19-14) pull into a tie with Atlanta for third place in the Eastern Conference - one game behind second-place Connecticut with one game remaining.
The Liberty still have a chance to get the No. 2 seed if they win at the Sun on Sunday and the Dream win at Indiana. New York has the tiebreaker in the three-team scenario. If just the Liberty win or if New York and Atlanta both lose, the Liberty will finish third.
Carson said the Liberty weren't thinking about the standings. They just wanted to play better.
''It was more 'We have to play our game. We have to play the way we know we can play,''' she said. ''We want to end on a good note. We have to prepare well for Connecticut. They're also a great team, No. 2 right now. We have to come in and play our game, really prepare well for them.''
Katie Douglas scored 17 points and Shannon Bobbitt had a career-high 16 points for the Fever (21-12), who had already secured the No. 1 seed in the East.
Trailing by 13 points with 5 1/2 minutes to go, Indiana scored seven consecutive points to pull within 75-69 with 3:13 remaining. Bobbitt made her fourth 3-pointer of the second half to start the run, and Jessica Davenport and Douglas made layups.
However, Leilani Mitchell and Powell made 3s about 50 seconds apart to seal the Liberty's win.
''We didn't come out aggressive like they did in the beginning,'' said Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who finished with nine points. ''The second half we came out and matched their intensity. ... But at the end of the day it was Kia Vaughn and what she was able to do, and as a team what they were able to do on the offensive boards. That's the thing that killed us.''
The Liberty outrebounded the Fever 30-19, finishing with 11 offensive boards.
''We had plenty of opportunities to win, but at the end of the day they had 20 points off offensive rebounds,'' Catchings said, ''and when we play a team like that, it's hard to overcome.''
Powell made consecutive jumpers and Pierson made two free throws to push New York's lead to 71-57 with 7:06 remaining
Shavonte Zellous followed with a 3 and Bobbitt made a layup to get Indiana within single digits again 27 seconds later. However, Kara Braxton hit a jumper and Pierson made two free throws to put the Liberty ahead 75-62 with 5:28 left, before the Fever made another run.
After Bobbitt's 3 in the opening minute of the third quarter pulled Indiana within nine, the Liberty scored the next eight points to take a 55-38 lead on Vaughn's free throws with 6:44 to go in the period.
Jeanette Pohlen, Douglas and Bobbitt made consecutive 3s to get Indiana within eight less than 2 minutes later.
Pierson followed with a layup for New York, and Bobbitt hit her third 3 of the third quarter and Douglas made 1 of 2 from the line to pull the Fever to 57-51 with 3:54 left.
Catchings then made three free throws, including a technical on Liberty coach John Whisenant, to get Indiana within five 36 seconds later. However, the Liberty closed the third quarter with a 6-1 run, including Carson's buzzer-beater from inside the 3-point line, to extend the lead back to double digits at 65-55.
Vaughn got the Liberty off to a strong start with seven points and six rebounds in the first quarter. Carson and Pondexter scored eight each as New York led 29-21 after 10 minutes.
''I wanted to continue to be a presence for the team and be the first one to start it off because I know if I keep the energy going I can help my teammates,'' Vaughn said. ''Then you have to focus on me and everybody else can hit shots.''
Mitchell hit a 3 to give the Liberty a 33-21 lead with 7 1/2 minutes to go in the second quarter. The teams played close the rest of the period, and Braxton's layup beat the halftime buzzer to give New York a 47-35 lead at halftime.