Fever defeat Liberty, 66-51, advance to WNBA Finals

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Led by Marissa Coleman and Tamika Catchings, the Indiana Fever defeated the New York Liberty 66-51 in game three of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals. With the victory the Fever advance to the WNBA Finals for the third time in franchise history. They will face the Minnesota Lynx for the league championship.

Indiana’s first-year head coach Stephanie White became the first rookie coach to take her team to the Finals in league history.

“Our crew has found a way all season long to really overcome adversity, which has really made their bond stronger,” said White about her team. “They play for the person next to them and they really lay it on the line for one another. We were playing an outstanding team in New York and obviously it was not the prettiest of games. We encouraged each other, they played for one another, they were unselfish and this team has really been a joy for me to coach. I am really proud of every single one of them.”

The two teams got off to a slow start offensively in the first quarter with the Fever leading at the end of the first ten minutes, 15-13. However, the visiting team gained momentum in the second quarter and they rode that surge to victory. At the half the Fever had a 33-22 edge. While the first half had four lead changes, the Fever never trailed after the break.

Coleman was on fire for the Fever to begin the third quarter scoring her team’s first nine points in the second half with three treys. She finished with 15 points. Catchings scored 14 points and pulled down four rebounds. Erlana Larkins had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Briann January contributed eight points, eight assists and six steals.

New York had two players in double figures: Candice Wiggins with 15 points and Tina Charles’ 13 points plus 10 rebounds.

WNBA Finals Schedule
Game 1:  3 p.m. ET, Sunday, October 4, ABC in Minnesota
Game 2:  8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, October 6, ESPN2/WatchESPN at Minnesota
Game 3:  8 p.m. ET, Friday, October 9, ESPN2/WatchESPN at Indiana
Game 4:  8:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, October 11, ESPN2/WatchESPN at Indiana
Game 5:  8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, October 14, ESPN2/WatchESPN at Minnesota
  • For the third time in seven years, the Indiana Fever are Eastern Conference champions.
  • The  Fever will meet the Western conference champions, the Minnesota Lynx, in a rematch of the 2012 Finals that saw Indiana capture its first-ever WNBA title.
  • The Liberty finished the regular season with a franchise-best 23-11 overall mark, posting the best overall record in the WNBA for the first time.
  •  New York advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010 and fell just one win shy of returning to the WNBA Finals for what would have been the first time since 2002.
By the Numbers
Box score
Points in the Paint: Fever 30, Liberty 24
Second Chance Points: Fever 4, Liberty 12
Fastbreak Points: Fever 0, Liberty 1
Biggest Lead: Fever 18, Liberty 3
Lead Changes: 4
Times Tied: 1
Attendance: 10,120
Indiana head coach Stephanie White

On the tempo of the game

“I just told our team that we have to stay aggressive. One of the best things we did in the second quarter was we got our temp going, attacked the rim and got higher percentage shots because we were going to the basket. New York missed a lot of shots that they normally would make so we could not get lulled into thinking that in the second half that we’re going to continue to not make those shots. This is a war and we are going into battle with an amazing team. This team is going to make runs and we have to stay poised and we have to come out with an aggressive ‘refuse to lose’ mindset.”

On Tamika Catchings

“We are going to have Tamika [Catchings] involved one way or another whether she is leading the offense or using her for spacing by the way she is getting double teamed and defended. She is even being a facilitator. We were just trying to get mismatches and try to exploit those mismatches. Now we did not always get it done but I thought Marissa Coleman being able to hit those threes were huge for us. Tamika [Catchings] was able to get some easy scoring and Erlana [Larkins], really in the pick and roll action she just took her game to another level. For us, Larkins is a huge difference. She has been playing all season long injured. She has found a way to tough it out in the playoffs. If she gets the ball within five feet from the basket, that is a no passing zone. Bri [Briann January] did a great job of finding her, and E [Larkins] did a good job of finishing.”

Fever’s Tamika Catchings

On playing with Indiana

“That’s been the script for my whole career in Indiana. We’ve always been underestimated we’ve always been that team that ‘oh yeah they have Tamika, but they’re OK.’ In 2009, we made it all the way to game five, and we lost to Phoenix.  I remember that year people said we would never make it and we made it. In 2012, was the same thing; this year was the same thing. I feel like every year we never get respect, I might get respect as a player but it’s never as a team and what we’re capable of doing. A lot of it is because we don’t have an All-Star or the Olympians.  I’ll take a team of players that will work every single day, work their butt off, rather than a star that comes just to be there and shows up for practice and plays great. I feel like I’ve made more of a difference on the lives of my teammates so when I am done and I do retire that they can still operate on a championship level because they have somebody that they could watch for two years.”

On winning in The Garden

I love it. That’s the environment that you want to play in, you don’t want a boring gym. Spike Lee right before the game was yelling my name and I looked at him and winked my eye.  This is the environment that you want to play in, the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Finals. I know when we go back home Indiana is going to be rocking; our fans are going to be in the house. When we get to Minnesota the fans are going to be rocking. That’s what you want to play in, that’s what you want to play in front of.”

Fever’s Marissa Coleman

On winning in The Garden

“We’ve had success in this building a long time ago. I’m just thankful to be here with this group of girls and to be going back to the WNBA Finals.”

Fever’s Erlana Larkins

On the carry over from the second game

“I don’t think I really thought about it at all. The first half wasn’t my best basketball, like I said I was very excited to be in this situation. In the third quarter Coach just told me to calm down and play my game, after I calmed down a little bit it was better. After I got that first bucket in the second half and then got another one it felt really good.”

Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer

On the Playoff and the Season

“It’s disappointing and unfortunate; all of the above adjective that you could use to talk about a lost series. You look back on the season and we say we were the number one seed and we didn’t get it done. Are we disappointing yes, but at the same time when we started the season it was an adventure and it as embarking upon an adventure to compete for a Championship. We did compete for a Championship; we just didn’t compete in the Finals. It is a great learning experience for us. It’s a great start.”

On Indiana Fever

“I give Indiana (Fever) all the credit in the world, they’re an experienced basketball team. Over the last five or six years they’ve been to the Conference Finals; this is their third trip to the Finals. We are learning that, and that’s what I told our basketball team today, we have a ways to go. A large part of season we did it hopscotching around and finding the right pieces at the right times during games. In the playoffs you have to have all the pieces working together and we didn’t have enough.”

On New York Liberty moving forward

“One of our tasks to embark upon is trying to secure more talent. Our players are going to grow up. They’ve had a good learning experience. This is the first year they’ve played together, we have a lot of inexperience, and this is the first time in the playoffs. I think it was a very big positive from the season. Yes it hurts today, its going to hurt tomorrow, its going to hurt next week, but still its about the body of work and where we want to be and I’ll take this season as is.”

On tonight’s game

“As far as x’s and o’s today, you all saw that we couldn’t throw the ball in the basket. It was very frustrating; part of it was a little bit of anxiousness. Thinking we have to go so fast, and that’s a learning experience, that’s the experience we don’t have. Indiana played solid defense but still they only scored 66 points so we should win the basketball game, and we didn’t get it done. Their (Indiana Fever) defense helped a little bit. Our 22 turnovers, many of them unforced, and easy missed shots are what did us in. We got beat, cant take that away from Indiana. They beat us, we didn’t play well, but we still lost the basketball game.”

Liberty’s Tina Charles

On the success of this season

“The best thing about this season is I gained sisters. This team is unmatched to any other team that I’ve ever been on and it’s only my sixth year in the league. We have great characters and just people who have pride in who they are, on and off the court. I think the thing that hurts the most is we’re not going to see each other anymore because we were really like a family.”

On the comeback in the second half

“We weren’t scoring. I don’t know what we shot, but it wasn’t good. Bottom line is we should’ve handled business in game two. That’s all it is. They were the better team tonight, we were the better team the first game and we were the better team game two, we just didn’t pull it out. Tanisha (Wright) always says, “you don’t get second chances,” even though we did, but they were the better team tonight. Offensively and defensively, all around, they were the better team.”

On the team moving forward

“With more experience and maturity we’ll get better. Kiah Stokes, now she knows what she needs to do to make herself available for us. There was a difference on how she was in the first game and how she was tonight. That comes with experience. I experienced that my first couple of seasons in Connecticut.”

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