NEW YORK (AP) Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever played with a sense of urgency and blew past the New York Liberty.
Catchings scored a season-high 29 points to lead Indiana to a 90-76 victory over the Liberty on Sunday, ending the Fever’s three-game losing streak. The Fever moved past the Liberty into third place in the tight Eastern Conference.
Catchings got the Fever going with 12 points in the first quarter as Indiana dominated from the start.
”I think we came out with a playoff mentality,” Catchings said. ”It’s been disappointing the highs and lows we’ve been playing with, underacheiving as a team and we wanted to come out and focus on just playing hard for four minutes at a time.”
The Fever (14-17) led 10-8 before going on a 14-4 run to close the quarter. Catchings had five points during the burst.
It only got worse for New York (13-17) from there as Indiana extended its advantage to 23 in the second quarter and led by 19 at the half.
Down 23 in the third, New York cut it to 77-68 on Sugar Rodgers’ 3-pointer with 4:56 left, but Catchings answered with her own 3 to restore the double-digit lead and seal the win.
”They definitely wanted it more,” said Tina Charles, who scored 17 points for New York. ”They saw where they were in the playoff race and wanted to get this one. Catch had 20 in the first half. We have to come out with that energy and intensity.”
Cappie Pondexter scored 18 points to lead New York.
Erlana Larkins added 14 points and Shavonte Zellous had 11 for the Fever, who continued their success on the road this season. They improved to 9-7 away from home, matching the most road victories in franchise history. Indiana has just five wins at home.
”I don’t know what it is,” Catchings said. ”I don’t know. One thing I think of is distraction. You get to a city, you’re in a hotel, when you’re at home, you got friends and family and a lot of things going on. We need to focus and put our foot down. This week is so important for us to make the playoffs.”
The two teams will play twice more over the next seven days, including next Sunday at Madison Square Garden to close out the regular season. New York also hosts Phoenix on Tuesday and visits Washington on Saturday night. The Fever have two games at home against the Liberty on Thursday and Chicago on Saturday.
This was the Fever’s first time playing at Madison Square Garden since the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2010. The Garden underwent $1 billion renovations over the past three years. Catchings finished three points short of her career high established against New York in 2002.
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