• September 25, 2021

Fever overcome 18-point deficit to beat Liberty, take game 2 of Eastern Conference Finals

From the teams:

The Indiana Fever came from behind to win game two of the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals, 70-64, on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

These two teams will meet for a winner take all game three on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. ET.

The Liberty led by as many as 18 points on Sunday afternoon, but the Fever used a frenzied comeback, outscoring New York 41-20 in the second half, to steal the win and prolong the series.

New York never trailed until Shenise Johnson buried a 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining in the game to put Indiana in front 60-59.

That shot came as a part of a 17-4 run, as on the next Fever possession, Marissa Coleman was good on a corner triple to make it a four-point Indiana lead.

New York dug in, cutting it to one as Tanisha Wright was able to get a three-pointer of her own to fall with just 2:14 to play. The Liberty was able to get a stop, and then regained a 65-64 advantage as Epiphanny Prince knocked down a pair at the line.

Indiana was able to retake the lead as Tamika Catchings dropped a 13-foot jumper and Wright was whistled for an offensive foul on consecutive possessions, the second of which led to a technical foul assessed to head coach Bill Laimbeer. Indiana iced the game by making all five of its foul shots over the final 15.9.

Tina Charles continued to prove why she was one of the best players in the game, scoring 25 points with 10 boards to pace New York. Prince joined her in double figures with 12 points.

After getting 40.5 points off the bench over the last two games, the Liberty reserves accounted for just 10, with Essence Carson leading the way scoring seven points and Sugar Rodgers adding three.

For New York, it was a rare loss when winning the turnover battle. The Liberty forced 13 Indiana turnovers, which led to 19 points, but a majority of those came during the first half of play. Indiana turned it over only four times in the second half with New York scoring two points off of those giveaways.

The Fever comeback actually began with a 3-pointer that came just seconds before halftime, which cut New York’s lead down to 15. That was the start of what turned into a 13-2 run that lasted into the third quarter, enabling Indiana to draw within 11 heading into the final period.

Another 13-2 run over the first 4:10 of the fourth quarter allowed the Fever to tie the game 55-55, the first tie since it was 2-2.

New York Notes

  • Tina Charles led New York with 25 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the 2015 playoffs.
  • The Liberty let an 18-point lead slip away, the largest lead given up this season and just the second time New York saw a double-digit lead fail to turn into a win.
  • New York lost when leading heading into the fourth quarter for just the second time, both of which game at Indiana; the Fever erased a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit in the regular season finale on Sept. 13.
  • The Liberty is now 0-6 all-time at Indiana in the playoff and lost all four games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
  • New York averaged 40.5 bench points in its last two wins, but saw just 10 points come from the bench on Sunday.
  • After shooting 50.0 percent from the field in the first half, New York hit on just 24.1 percent of its attempts from the field in the second (7-of-29).

Indiana Notes

  • After trailing by as many as 18 points late in the first half (26-44, 34.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter), the Indiana Fever completed the second-largest comeback victory in the franchise’s playoff history.
  • The Fever held New York to 20 points in the second half on 7-for-29 shooting (24.1 percent).  It marks the second-fewest points that the Fever have allowed in a half in playoff history.
  • The Fever are now 7-2 in their past nine playoff elimination games, including a 3-0 record this postseason.  Indiana is 14-9 all-time in elimination games with a 10-2 record at home.
  • Tamika Catchings passed Becky Hammon (60) for second all-time in WNBA postseason history as she appeared in her 61st career playoff game.
  • With 25 points tonight, Catchings has scored 20 or more points in four of the five playoff games this season.  She has now scored 20 or more points in 25 career playoff games.
  • The Fever outscored the Liberty 41-20 in the second half while committing only four turnovers after halftime.

Fever head coach Stephanie White

“I’m just really proud of our team for our effort in the second half.  I thought for whatever reason we came out very flat.  In the first half we came out almost content looking.  And it’s not really acceptable.  And we challenged them in the locker room at halftime to come out with a fire, with the competitive spirit that we’ve shown all season long and we did.  And of course you know led by Tamika (Catchings) and her warrior mentality. Really she just challenged everybody to come with more intensity.  And I felt like our defensive energy and intensity in the second half was much better, which allowed us to fuel our transition offense, allowed us to get in the open floor a little bit more and we took much better care of the basketball.  They had 17 points off of turnovers in the first half, so we were really shooting ourselves in the foot.  Overall execution in the second half was just much better.”

What did you tell your players at halftime?

“I just told them that New York was playing like they were on a mission and we were playing like we were content to go home.  And that’s all I had to say.  I just challenged them to play like we’re fighting for something.  And I just challenged them and said whoever wants to fight, come on out.  Whoever doesn’t, stay in the locker room.  And we did. We did.  It’s really not about what I say or what we do, it’s about our players.  And it’s about our players being in a mentality and playing with a mentality, with a refuse to lose mentality, playing with a high energy level and attention to detail on the defensive end of the floor and playing with an aggressive mentality on the offensive end of the floor.”

Fever’s Tamika Catchings

“Today was just an example of the fight and the grit and the character of this team.  You know to come out and be down and it would have been easy to come out the second half and just fold over and roll over and let whatever happens in the game.  At halftime we talked about what this team is made of and what we all have inside of us.  And if this is the last game of our season, is this the way we want to go out?  To see the turnaround from the first half to the second half and just what it means to fight.  I’m really proud of my team.  I’m really proud of my teammates.  And just the grit that we all showed in coming out and just like hey if we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out with a bang.  And here we are going to game six.”  

On changing the momentum for the team and in the fans’ eyes

“Six quarters of underachieving and not playing to my ability.  And after the Chicago series you come out and have such a great performance and then it’s like a huge from the high to the low.  I was disappointed in myself for how I played.  So at halftime I took off my shoes like ok we’re going to start all the way over.  If I could have taken off my uniform I probably would have done that too.  But I took off my shoes and just kind of like relaxed, slow down, thinking about the day and just everything and what I’ve given to the game and what my teammates needed from me.  And literally when I put my shoes on and just like going out and kind of like God, that energy that I got.  And I went out and just played, just played the way that I know how to play.  We can have fun.  We haven’t had fun in six quarters.  The last two quarters we had fun.”

Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer

(On difference in momentum from first to second half )

“They got a little momentum when at the end of the second quarter when they missed a call, we get tripped, and they get three points out of it, I don’t know if it’s 18 or 20 points. Going to the locker room, that helped them a little bit.  But next they started taking us off the dribble and attacking the basket. We didn’t. We settled for jump shots and that’s what happens when you don’t attack.”

(What changes did Indiana make defensively?)

“They just picked up the pressure, tried to deny as much as possible, took us out of our set.  They just played harder in the second half.  They’re a fine defensive team when they turn it up like that and so are we.  We just didn’t get it done.”

Quoting the Liberty’s Tina Charles

What did the Fever do in the second half defensively to stifle you?

“We just didn’t move the ball the way we were doing that got us that big lead.  We stopped doing all those little things.  We had 11assists in the first half and finished with 15 assists.  So moving the ball and all the things that get us going, get our motors going we just stopped doing.”

What do you plan to do to shut down the Fever?

“Just keep our focus.  Work as a team, just keep playing through it.   Just little things like that.  Looking forward to Tuesday.”

Did you notice a momentum shift at the start of the fourth quarter?

“Yes.  Me growing up, watching Tamika (Catchings), she’s very resilient, willing the team to a win and to a victory.  I knew she was going to turn it up to take over the game and then the rest of the guys, it was just going to be a snowball effect and they were going to fill in where necessary.  And that’s exactly what they did.”


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