INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – AUGUST 23, 2015 – The New York Liberty lost a nail biter to the Indiana Fever, 80-79, on Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Liberty came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter but was unable to hold on down the stretch.
Shenise Johnson hit what stood as the game-winner with 1:33 remaining, draining a difficult 19-foot jumper that rattled through the rim.
The teams traded missed 3-pointers on the ensuing possessions, but after Tamika Catchings misfired from downtown with 44.9 to play, Briann January came away with the offensive board to give the Fever a chance to extend the lead or drain more time off the clock.
Indiana failed to score, and after a timeout, New York inbounded in the front court. That set up an Epiphanny prince jumper with a second remaining, but her attempt hit back iron.
New York (18-8) maintains control of first place in the Eastern Conference, but saw its lead over the streaking Fever (17-9) reduced to just one game with eight to play. Indiana, which is 9-1 since the All-Star break and has won six in a row, clinched the season series win, taking 3-of-4 so far this season. These teams will face once more this year, on the final day of the regular season in Indianapolis.
The Liberty did see its magic number for clinching a playoff berth reduced to three thanks to Connecticut’s home loss to Atlanta on Sunday.
Tina Charles led all scorers with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Prince finished with 15 points, four assists and four steals and Brittany Boyd came off the bench to score 14 points with six assists and six rebounds. Boyd has now scored in double figures in three of the last four games.
After giving up 55 points in the first half, the most for a Liberty foe in any half this season, New York ramped up its defensive intensity in the third quarter, shaving six points off a nine-point deficit, and moving into position to take its first lead of the game early in the third.
Indiana scored just 10 points in the third, shooting 3-of-10 from the field in addition to committing six turnovers.
On the first possession of the fourth, Prince completed a 3-point play to tie the game, 65-65, for the first time since it was 2-2. After Kiah Stokes blocked a Tamika Catchings layup, one of her four blocks on the night, Tanisha Wright found her way to the hoop for two and New York had its first lead of the game, 67-65.
Indiana scored the next five points, moving back in front 70-67 as Shavonte Zellous drained a three at 7:25. The Liberty eventually dialed up a 6-0 run to take its second lead of the night. Charles and Prince hit difficult long jumpers on consecutive possession to knot the score at 75 and then Stokes hauled in a Charles miss and put it up and in to give New York a 77-75 lead.
However, the Liberty shot 1-of-5 over the final three minutes and Indiana came back to grab the one-point win.
The Fever were hot from 3-point range from the start, nailing three triples in the first three minutes to move in front 13-8 as Marissa Coleman drained a trey from the left wing.
Indiana expanded its lead to eight by the end of the first, and moved in front by as many as 12 in the second quarter as New York was unable to string stops together.
The difference was 3-point shooting and foul trouble. Indiana connected for six triples in the first half, compared to just one for New York, and the Liberty front court was in serious foul trouble. The Fever shot 11-of-13 from the line as Carolyn Swords and Avery Warley Talbert each had three fouls while Charles and Stokes had two apiece.
New York returns to action on Friday, August 28, when it hosts the Minnesota Lynx at Madison Square Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
New York Liberty Postgame Notes
- New York’s magic number to clinch its first playoff berth since 2012 is now three with eight games to play.
- Tanisha Wright has had back-to-back games with six assists.
- Liberty won the points in the paint battle 40-14.
- Tamika Catchings led the Fever scoring effort for the first time this season vs. the Liberty with 14 points.
- There were five lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter.
- Swin Cash moved into a tie with Taj McWilliams-Franklin for 7th all time in games played with 440.
- Indiana scored 55 points in the first half, the most for a Liberty opponent in any half this season.
- The Fever only scored 25 points in the second half and shot 36.4 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes (8-of-22)
- Kiah Stokes finished with four blocks, the most for her since swatting a franchise record eight in a win over Connecticut on July 16.