New York Liberty

Fever Knock Off Liberty in Game 3, Will Meet Lynx in Finals

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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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New York routs Indiana 84-67 in conference final opener

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NEW YORK —¬†Tina Charles had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to lead the New York Liberty to an 84-67 victory over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Playing a day after they advanced out of the first round for the first time in five years, the Liberty didn’t show any signs of fatigue. They scored nine of the first 13 points and never trailed.

Epiphanny Prince, who was just 2 for 12 on Tuesday night, had 17 points against Indiana. Just like in their victory over Washington on Tuesday night, New York’s reserves provided a spark. Rookie Kiah Stokes scored a career-best 21 points, hitting 9 of 11 shots, and Sugar Rodgers added 14 points.

The Liberty had to play back-to-back games because of the Pope’s visit to New York. He’s performing Mass at the Garden on Friday and the building is closed Thursday to prepare for it.

“I don’t like it, but I understand it,” New York coach Bill Laimbeer said about having to play back-to-back. “(It’s the) Pope. … arena availability is tough sometimes.”

Game 2 is Sunday in Indianapolis.

Behind Stokes, Rodgers and Prince, the Liberty built a 26-18 lead after the first quarter. Rodgers capped the period with back-to-back 3-pointers bringing the crowd to its feet. Having less than 24 hours to sell tickets caused New York to have a smaller crowd then the opening round when the team averaged nearly 9,700 fans. Still the group that was at the Garden was loud and supportive.

Indiana hung around in the second quarter as Tamika Catchings, who was scoreless in the opening period had seven points. New York led 48-42 at the half.

The Liberty used their league-best defense to take control of the game in the third quarter. New York held Indiana to just seven points in the period as the Fever made only two baskets. On the offensive end, Rodgers and Prince hit 3-pointers while Charles kept finding Stokes for open lay-ins.

New York led 65-49 heading to the fourth quarter and Stokes and Prince stifled any chance of an Indiana rally. Ahead 68-51, Prince drove in for a layup and went crashing to the floor on a foul by Catchings. Prince made the free throw and gave New York a 20-point lead. Indiana couldn’t get much closer the rest of the way. Charles, who played nearly 40 minutes Tuesday night, left with 3:30 left and the game well in hand.

Shenise Johnson scored 12 points to lead the Fever.

Losing Game 1 is nothing new to Indiana, which dropped the opener of its series with Chicago before winning the next two games.

Indiana was playing in the conference finals for the fifth straight year, matching the WNBA record set by Los Angeles (1999-03) and equaled by Minnesota this season also. New York was making its first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals since 2010.

Carolyn Swords returned to New York’s starting lineup after missing Game 3 with a right foot injury. Laimbeer had said they would be cautious with her and not rush her back. But after taking part in warmups, Swords was back in the lineup and made an immediate impact. She had an offensive tip that led to an easy basket. The 6-foot-6 former Boston College star then had her own layup followed by a cross-court pass that led to a 3-pointer by Prince.

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Charles, Liberty beat Mystics 79-74 to reach East finals

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NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles scored 22 points and Sugar Rodgers added 20 to help the top-seeded New York Liberty beat the Washington Mystics 79-74 on Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2010.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana will be Wednesday because the Pope is coming to New York and will be at MSG on Friday.

Trailing 72-71 with 1:46 left, Kiah Stokes hit a layup off a nifty assist from Rodgers. After a steal on the other end by Rodgers, she hit a layup with 58 seconds left to give New York a three-point lead. Ivory Latta hit two free throws with 42.5 seconds left to pull Washington to 75-74.

With the shot clock running down, Epiphanny Prince hit a 15-footer, only her second basket of the game to make it a three-point game with 20 seconds left. Washington had one final chance but Latta’s 3-pointer was blocked with 5 seconds left and New York held on for the win.

Latta scored 18 points to lead the Mystics.

Washington opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 51-47 lead. Emma Meesseman had six of those points for the Mystics.

Charles wouldn’t let the Liberty go away. After missing 11 of her first 16 shots, Charles hit a jumper from the top of the key and then had a putback. Wiggins hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game at 57 heading into the final quarter.

The Mystics jumped out all over New York hitting five of its first seven 3-pointers to go up 25-13 with 16 seconds left in the first quarter. New York looked like the second top-seed in the East ready to fall in the opening round after Indiana knocked off No. 2 Chicago on Monday night. But Kiah Stokes had a putback just before the buzzer that made it a 10-point game and gave the Liberty momentum heading into the second quarter.

Rodgers and Candice Wiggins helped New York score 16 of the next 18 points to take control of the game. Rodgers’ layup made it 28-27 with 5:11 left in the period and gave New York its first lead of the game. She was just getting started, scoring 10 of the Liberty’s next 13 points sending the crowd into a frenzy. A 3-pointer by Wiggins was the other basket during that spurt. She ran down the court pumping her fists after the shot swished through the net.

While the attendance couldn’t match the 10,000 that showed up for Game 1, the crowd did include WNBA President Laurel J. Richie, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and No. 1 New York fan Spike Lee, who sat courtside. Indiana Fever players and staff were in attendance at the game after flying to New York earlier Tuesday.

The Liberty led 45-37 at the half.

New York center Carolyn Swords didn’t play after injuring her foot in Game 2 on Sunday which the Liberty won by 18 points. The Mystics were victorious in the opener, winning in double overtime.

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