NEW YORK — Tamika Catchings scored 14 points to lead Indiana to a 66-51 victory over the New York Liberty on Tuesday night in the decisive Game 3, advancing the Fever to the WNBA Finals.
They will face the Lynx in the championship that begins Sunday in Minnesota.
Catchings, who announced she’s retiring at the end of next season, has willed her team to victories. For the fourth time this postseason, Indiana has staved off elimination. The Fever won the final two games in the opening round against Chicago. Then, against New York, the Fever swept the final two contests, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the second quarter in Game 2 to force Tuesday’s contest.
Indiana is back in the Finals for the first time since 2012 – the only season the Fever won the championship.
The Fever improved to 8-2 in elimination games in the past four seasons and Catchings is a huge reason why. She averaged 21.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in the first nine of those games.
Catchings and Indiana looked ready to cruise to the finals, building an 18-point lead in the third quarter before New York tried to rally. Marissa Coleman hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter to help the Fever build their huge lead after Indiana held a 33-22 halftime advantage.
New York wasn’t done. Epiphanny Prince, who was scoreless in the first half, hit a 3-pointer to start a 12-3 run to close the period and bring New York within nine heading to the fourth. The Liberty hit three 3s during that spurt, capped by Candice Wiggins’ shot that made it 49-40 with 28 seconds left in the quarter and brought the loud crowd to its feet.
As he’s done at so many Knicks games, Spike Lee was leading the charge from the sideline, trying to spur the Liberty to a monumental rally. The Liberty kept it going to start the fourth as Wiggins scored the first five points of the period to get New York within 49-45.
But Catchings refused to let her team lose. She made two free throws that started a 10-0 run and restored the double-digit lead, essentially sealing the victory for the Fever.
New York was trying to make its first appearance in the WNBA Finals since 2002. The Liberty have been to the championship four times and lost each one.
Tina Charles finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead New York, which had the best record in franchise history and was the top seed in the Eastern Conference before falling short in the playoffs. Wiggins led New York with 15 points.
Coleman scored 15 points for Indiana, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts.
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