NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 – It will be winner take all when the New York Liberty hosts the Indiana Fever for a decisive game three of the 2015 WNBA Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
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ALL-TIME: Indiana leads, 39-22
ALL-TIME PLAYOFFS: Indiana leads, 7-6
2015 SEASON: Indiana, 5-2
LAST MEETING: IND 70, NYL 64 (September 27, 2015)
For both teams it is a familiar situation, facing elimination in a must-win game to advance in the playoffs. New York lost game one of its Eastern Conference semifinal series to Washington, coming back to win 2-1, while Indiana found itself down 1-0 to higher-seeded Chicago, before coming back and eventually winning game three on the road.
The Liberty comes into the game feeling like an opportunity slipped away, as New York had a 15-point lead at the half of Sunday afternoon’s game two, but saw Indiana shoot 71.4 percent in the fourth quarter to complete a frenzied comeback and force a game three at The Garden.
Not surprisingly, it was Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings trying to will their teams to victory. Charles posted another spectacular playoff performance, matching her postseason career-high of 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Catchings also scored 25 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter, when the Fever erased an 11-point deficit.
Unquestionably, the Fever was able to feed off the energy of its home crowd. New York completely dominated the first half of game two, leading by as many as 18, but once the shots started to fall for Indiana, its confidence grew and by the time the Fever took the lead late in the fourth quarter, every shot attempt just felt like it was going to hit nylon.
Heading into the decisive third game, New York will have to combat the lack of execution that enabled Sunday afternoon’s comeback. After assisting 11-of-17 shots in the first half, the Liberty had just four assists in the second half.
Indiana meanwhile was able to penetrate and get to the basket, only assisting on 9-of-27 shots in the win. New York’s success should stem on replicating what led to a dominating six quarters of basketball from the opening tip of game one until halftime of game two, putting the 20 minutes that allowed Indiana to extend the series in the rearview mirror.
On the line for New York is its first trip to the WNBA Finals since 2002. The Liberty played all season to clinch home court advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and now on Tuesday night it will have The Garden crowd on its side as it attempts to complete the next step on the road to a WNBA title.
LIBERTY LANDS THREE ON WNBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM
The New York Liberty had three players earn 2015 WNBA All-Defensive Second Team honors, Kiah Stokes, Tanisha Wright, and Tina Charles, a strong indication of what a complete defensive effort the Libs put forth on a nightly basis. Stokes, Wright, and Charles led a defense that limited opponents to a league-low 71.1 points per game. Stokes ranked fourth in the league with 1.97 blocks, Wright (28 steals) had her ninth consecutive season with 25 or more steals, and Charles collected 24 steals and 23 blocks. Wright had previously earned five First-Team All-Defensive selections while Charles is Second-Team for the third time in her career and Stokes was the only rookie named to either team.
LAST TIME OUT: INDIANA 70, NEW YORK 64
- New York led by as many as 18 points and was in front 44-29 at the end of the first half. The 18 point lead relinquished is the largest of the season for the Liberty, which had previously won every game during which it held greater than a 10-point lead.
- Tina Charles matched her playoff career-high of 25 points, also pulling down 10 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.
- Kiah Stokes led the Liberty with 11 boards, but failed to score one game after posting 21 points against the Fever.
- The Liberty was outscored in the paint for the fifth time this year, falling to 2-3 in those contests.
- New York shot just 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) in the fourth quarter and scored 20 second-half points while Indiana was 10-of-14 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range over the final 10 minutes, scoring 28, just one shy of its total for the entire first half.
- Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 25 points, scoring 16 in the second half and 10 in the fourth quarter.
- The Liberty suffered a rare loss when committing fewer turnovers (13-12) and scoring more points off turnovers (19-18) than an opponent, now sitting 14-3 and 16-4 in those games.
- After assisting on 11-of-17 made field goals in the first half, New York recorded just four assists in the entire second half.
- New York had averaged 37.7 points per game from its bench during its three-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s game, but saw just 10 points come from its reserves. During the playoffs, the Liberty averages 37.7 ppg from the bench in its wins compared to 8.0 in two losses.
BUCKING THE SEASON TREND
The Liberty saw an 18-point lead slip away in its 70-64 loss at Indiana in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon. For New York, there were a number of season-long trends that failed to hold up in the setback:
- New York saw a double-digit lead slip away for just the second time this year, and the Liberty had never lost a lead of 11 or more in 2015.
- Indiana outscored the Liberty in the paint, 36-28, just the fifth time all year New York failed to win the points in the paint battle.
- New York fell to 21-3 when holding a lead heading into the fourth quarter.
- New York committed fewer turnovers and scored more points off turnovers than Indiana, but lost for just the third (14-3) and fourth (16-4) times respectively when that was the case.
STOKES AND BOYD NAMED TO 2015 WNBA ALL-ROOKIE TEAMS
The New York Liberty landed two players on the 2015 WNBA All-Rookie Team in Kiah Stokes and Brittany Boyd, who finished second and third respectively in the voting with nine and eight points apiece. Additionally, Stokes finished second in the WNBA Rookie of the Year voting, compiling 16 votes, five fewer than Seattle’s Jewell Loyd. Stokes led all rookies in rebounds (6.4), and blocked shots (2.0), also posting three double-doubles, the only rookie to have any this year. Boyd was sixth among league rookies in scoring at 6.6 ppg and was first with 1.2 spg, while also contributing 2.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest. Seattle was the only other team in the league with two All-Rookie team selections.