The Indiana Fever figure to be scoreboard-watching during their regular-season finale.
The Fever plan to reduce the minutes for their starters Sunday night since they have secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs heading into this meaningless road matchup with the New York Liberty.
Indiana (16-17) clinched the No. 2 seed Saturday with a 71-67 home win over Chicago. The Fever jumped all over the Sky with a 32-point first quarter – their highest in an opening period – to build a 16-point cushion after 10 minutes.
Tamika Catchings finished with 25 points and Briann January added 14 for the Fever, who have won three straight.
”I am really proud of our team with the way we came out tonight,” Catchings said. ”I thought we came out focused and ready to play.”
The Fever saw their huge advantage sliced to two points in the fourth quarter. Catchings scored 10 points in the final period and made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to clinch the win.
Now it remains to be seen who Indiana will face in round one. Chicago will be the Fever’s opponent if it beats San Antonio in a game that starts at the same time Sunday. If the Sky lose, Washington will gain the No. 3 seed.
Coach Lin Dunn said that her team is fatigued as it heads to New York. Indiana has won five straight over the Liberty (14-19), including the first three meetings this year.
"Whatever happens up there we’ll have the second seed so that’s nice to know coming into that game and I can also give our starters some more rest and I can also give our backups more minutes," Dunn said.
This will mark the third meeting between these teams in eight days. Catchings scored a season-high 29 points in a 90-76 win last Sunday and the Fever clinched a playoff spot with Thursday’s 76-63 home victory as Catchings and January combined for 31.
The Liberty will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. They ended a three-game slide with Saturday’s 73-61 road win over the Mystics.
Plenette Pierson scored 20 points as New York shot 50.9 percent.
”We executed our offense,” coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”This was about as good as we’ve executed in a while.”
New York star Tina Charles is averaging 18.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in the season series.