A conservative offense in final minute helped Liberty prevail at home over Indiana. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEW YORK -- The New York Liberty returned to the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden following a road trip that concluded with a 2-5 record. With the regular season less than a month from completion, each game being important is more than a trite saying.
On this evening, the Liberty did not fashion a 40-minute artistic masterpiece. What they did was find the proverbial way to win, defeating the Indiana Fever, 81-76. The Liberty are now 13-12, while Indiana, in their first year under Pokey Chatman, are now 9-18.
The first four minutes saw the Liberty get out to a 13-8 lead. The first set saw Tina Charles knock down a three-pointer from the right corner. After that, the Liberty star played a lot closer to the basket, establishing a low post presence Indiana did not have an answer for. That early momentum of a good start continued as the Liberty closed the quarter ahead by ten. Former Rutgers product Erica Wheeler sparked the Fever in the first half. Wheeler enjoyed a 13-point second quarter, hitting five field goals, three from long range. For the half, she finished with 20 points.
The Liberty led 46-40 at the half. The first five minutes after the break saw the Fever post a slight 10-9 advantage to cut their deficit score to 55-50. Once again, Wheeler’s presence was felt, with five points on two field goals during those opening minutes.
Possessions: Indiana 78, New York 82
Offensive efficiency: Indiana 97, New York 99
Effective field goal percentage: Indiana 47, New York 39
Free throw rate: Indiana 26, New York 46
Offensive rebound rate: Indiana 25, New York 39
Turnover rate: Indiana 17, New York 15
Leading Scorers/Player Efficiency
Indiana: Erica Wheeler, 33 points/31
New York: Tina Charles, 26 points/24
- The Liberty led 36-10 on points in the paint, no surprise, given the perimeter attack of the Fever.
- Indiana shot 7-of-19 from three-point range. Wheeler had all seven treys, shooting 7-of-11 from downtown. The Liberty shot just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc. Their outstanding numbers from the foul line, a combination of the inside game and Indiana being in a late-game fouling mode, made up for the inefficiency from deep.
Candice Dupree was the other Fever player in double figures, scoring 14 points. Shavonte Zellous (16), Bria Hartley (13) and Kiah Stokes (12) joined Charles in double figures for New York. Zellous also added a game-high eight rebounds. Charles was an unblemished 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
The game was knotted at 70 with two minutes to go in regulation. The Liberty took the lead, then got a stop. They slowed the tempo with the lead, and following a few stops were in a position to seal it from the charity stripe. Wheeler was shut down in the fourth quarter until the last 20 seconds. Her three-pointer with 20 seconds left cut the Liberty lead to four. She added another seven seconds later. Both times, the Liberty responded, converting their free throws and keeping the Fever at bay.
“Coming off a long road trip, teams are historically flat. We did not have a good shootaround today, so I was not sure how we would play. We came tonight with energy. We did not play very well, but with enough energy to win.”
On Bria Hartley: “She came into a situation with a new team and a new coach. Her confidence, naturally, was a little down. Once she saw she would play quality minutes, that took a lot of pressure off her mind. She has been a solid player for us the second half of the season.” - Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer