INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – AUGUST 22, 2015 – The two top teams in the Eastern Conference will square off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday night in Indianapolis, Ind., as the first-place New York Liberty battles the Indiana Fever on MSG Network at 6 p.m.
WATCH: MSG Network
NEW YORK GAME NOTES: CLICK HERE
ALL-TIME: Indiana leads, 37-22
2015 SEASON: IND, 2-1
LAST MEETING: IND 84, NYL 72 (July 29, 2015)
New York currently leads the field in theEastern Conference by two games, but since the All-Star Break no team in the league has been hotter than the Fever. At the midway point of the season, Indiana ranked fifth in the East, on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Since then, the Fever has won 8-of-9, including five in a row heading into Sunday night’s contest, most recently completing a sweep of Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle during its West Coast road swing.
Two of New York’s seven losses this year have come to Indiana. After winning the first matchup of the season, 86-79, back on June 9 at Madison Square Garden, the Liberty has seen Indiana come back to take the lead in the season series.
Indiana is doing something few teams have this year, score on the best defense in the league. The Liberty ranks first in the WNBA in points allowed per game (69.9) and defensive field goal percentage (.380) but Indiana is averaging 81.0 ppg while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range, draining an average of 8.3 3-pointers per game.
Interestingly enough, four Fever players are averaging double figures against the Liberty, but Tamika Catchings is not one of them. Indiana’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker is averaging just 8.0 ppg in three meetings with New York, shooting 25.9 percent from the floor.
Shenise Johnson has led the way at 12.7 ppg, and Maggie Lucas has been lethal from 3-point range, averaging 10.7 ppg and hitting 8-of-16 from long distance.
For the Liberty, the last two games have been a big bounce back after suffering a disappointing home loss to Tulsa last Saturday night. New York pounded San Antonio on Wednesday, limiting the Stars to a WNBA season-low 45 points, and closed on a 39-19 run against Atlanta on Friday, holding a high-scoring Dream squad to just 67 points.
Tina Charles is continuing to play like a league MVP candidate, scoring a game-high 25 points with seven boards in Friday night’s win. She ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 17.9 ppg and second in rebounding at 8.9 rpg.
WHERE IS THE LOVE?
The talk around the league seems to pinpoint a pair of MVP candidates in Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne and Minnesota’s Maya Moore, but why no consideration for New York’s All-Star Tina Charles, who has helped guide the team to the best start in franchise history while nearly averaging a double-double? Charles ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 17.9 ppg, and second in rebounding with 8.9 per game. She has nine double-doubles this season, has scored in double figures in 21-of-25 games, and a pair of 30-plus point performances. Charles’ strong number across the board show the impact she is having on the team with the best winning percentage in the WNBA. She is also averaging 2.4 assists per game and is eighth in the league with 31.0 minutes per game.
LENDING A HAND
The Liberty recorded 21 assists on 30 made baskets in its win over Atlanta on August 21, and distributing the basketball has proven to be a key to New York’s success this season. The Liberty average 16.9 assists per game, which ranks fifth in the league, and in its wins the team is averaging over three more assists per game. In 18 victories, New York is averaging 17.7 assists per game, compared to just 14.6 in its seven losses. For the year, the Liberty has recorded an assist on 62.0 percent of its made baskets. Epiphanny Prince (3.7) and Tanisha Wright (3.5) lead New York in assists.
LAST TIME OUT – NEW YORK 78, ATLANTA 67
- The Liberty improved to 18-7 for the first time in franchise history.
- New York’s .720 winning percentage is the best in the WNBA.
- The Liberty’s magic number for a playoff berth is now four.
- Tine Charles scored 18 of her game-high 25 points in the second half.
- New York closed the game on a 39-19 run after falling behind by nine points in the third quarter.
- The Liberty are the best defensive team in the league and limited the Dream to just 35.8 percent shooting while Atlanta was held below 70 points for just the fourth time.
- Kiah Stokes continued to make a case for Rookie of the Year finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
- The Liberty had 21 assists on 30 made baskets.
- New York improved to 9-3 this season at Madison Square Garden.
After seeing Connecticut (.509) and Tulsa (.473) post impressive shooting percentages in consecutive games, New York has clamped down on defense in the last two contests. The Liberty did not give the San Antonio Stars much room to operate offensively when it picked up a 73-45 win at Freeman Coliseum on August 19, with the 45 points matching a WNBA single-game season low for 2015 (Seattle at Tulsa, 6/9/15). New York limited the Stars to just 27.0 percent from the field, a season-best defensively and the fourth time this year the Liberty has held an opponent under 30 percent from the field. San Antonio scored just six points in the second quarter, and only seven the in the fourth. New York followed that up by holding a high-scoring Atlanta team to a mere 67 points on 35.8 percent shooting. Over the last two games, the Liberty is yielding 56.0 ppg and holding opponents to a .315 field goal percentage.
THE BEST START SINCE…
- At 18-7, New York is off to the best start in franchise history. No Liberty team has posted 18 wins through the first 25 games of the season.
- With its 90-78 win over Connecticut on August 14, the Liberty surpassed last season’s win total and now has the most wins since 2011, when New York finished 19-15.
- The Liberty has won four-games in a row on two occasions. The last New York squad to boast two separate winning streaks of at least four games was the 2007 team.
- For Bill Laimbeer, the 18 wins signify the most for him since his 2008 Detroit Shock squad went 22-12 and won the WNBA title.
SHE’S GOT GAME
Most look to the addition of Epiphanny Prince to the New York Liberty lineup in terms of what she brings to the team in terms of scoring, and no doubt, at 15.3 ppg she provides a sizable offensive boost. However, her all around game rounds out the overall positive impact she has on the court. Prince leads New York with 3.7 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game, boasting six games with at least five assists.
INDIANA FEVER SEASON SERIES NOTES
- Indiana has won 2-of-3 against New York this season, but including Sunday night’s game, the teams will play twice more this season.
- In the Liberty win back on June 9 at Madison Square Garden, New York used a 24-13 third quarter to pick up an 86-79 win and drop the Fever to 0-3.
- New York is giving up an average of 81.0 ppg to the Fever, compared to its league-leading defensive points per game average of 69.9.
- The Liberty has not protected the basketball thus far against Indiana, turning it over an average of 17.3 times per game.
- Indiana has had a lot of success shooting the long ball against New York, converting on 44.4 percent (25-of-44) of its 3-point attempts.
- Epiphanny Prince scored 17 points in her only game against Indiana this year.
- Shenise Johnson is leading Indiana offensively against New York; in three meetings she is scoring a team-best 12.7 ppg.
- Tamika Catchings is averaging just 8.0 ppg against New York and shooting only 25.9 percent from the field.