Fever, Liberty meet in battle of frustrated teams

The Indiana Fever and the New York Liberty are experiencing frustration for different reasons in the early weeks of the regular season.

Indiana remains the league’s only winless team and New York is encountering difficulties with close games.

Only one of these struggling teams will get a chance to experience elation from winning on Sunday at the Westchester County Civic Center in White Plains, N.Y.

Indiana (0-7) has lost its last 15 regular-season games since an 84-82 home win over the Minnesota Lynx on Aug. 6. The Fever also have dropped their last nine regular-season road games since beating the Phoenix Mercury on July 19.

The Fever are off to the worst start in team history and their 76.3 points per game are the lowest in the league. Indiana is allowing 86.6 per game.

Indiana is coming off its best chance to win when it dropped an 89-83 home decision to the Dallas Wings. After trailing by double digits in their first six games, the Fever blew a 13-point lead, getting outscored 56-37 in the final 22:54.

“It (stinks) because we’re fighting hard,” said rookie guard Kelsey Mitchell, who tied a career high with 26 points and is the first Indiana rookie to score at least 20 points in consecutive games since 2003. “People may have their criticisms of us, but we are working. When you fall short like that, it hurts.”

“This is going to sting; it’s going to hurt,” Indiana coach Pokey Chatman told reporters. “I hear sniffles and crying in there. I’m like, ‘Good.’ When you work so hard and it means that much to you, you’re going to correct that. We’ll get to that point.”

New York knows about falling short. Each of its first six games has been decided by six points or less, but the Liberty have lost four times.

The Liberty have dropped the last two since rookie Kia Nurse scored 34 points on June 2 in an 87-81 overtime win at Indiana. After taking an 80-74 loss to the Mercury on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, the Liberty were handed an 88-86 loss by the Connecticut Suns on Thursday.

Thursday’s game might have been the toughest of any loss to take for the Liberty when it ended on a four-point play after they blew a 15-point lead.

New York sustained its latest loss when Connecticut’s Shekinna Stricklen hit the go-ahead 3-pointer at the buzzer and sank the ensuing foul shot.

“It’s heartbreaking,” New York’s Marissa Coleman said. “We did some good things toward the end to put us in a position to win that game.”

“We’re right there if we keep holding each other accountable and encouraging each other and motivating each other,” New York’s Tina Charles said. “We’re right there. We just have to put it together.”

Charles led the Liberty with 24 points Thursday, and her 23.8 points per game lead the league. She has not scored fewer than 18 points in a game so far and has three double-doubles.

She scored 23 in the last meeting when the Liberty were outscored 42-25 in the second half before escaping in overtime.

“We just played (Indiana) and that was somewhat of a trap game in a sense,” New York coach Katie Smith said. “You look at their record and assume it’s going to be easy and we almost got our tails beat.

“Hopefully, our mentality of understanding is that they are a scary team. They can put up points pretty easily and quickly if you let them get rolling.”

New York has won the last four meetings.