NEW YORK CITY - On the surface, it was elimination time. The Indiana Fever defeated the New York Liberty 66-51 at Madison Square Garden. The game three victory punched the Fever ticket to the finals against the Minnesota Lynx. Beyond the score and numbers, the storylines run a great deal deeper.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer spoke of the hurt and disappointment, emotions that dominated the postgame moment as a successful and rewarding season went into the books.
The Liberty learned a harsh lesson in finishing. They had an 18-point lead in Indiana on Sunday and could not close it out. There was no ‘hangover’ on Tuesday from that experience per Laimbeer. Rather, it was a veteran Fever team finishing the job, something the young Liberty group must learn to take a step toward that elusive first WNBA title.
The numbers showed the Liberty with a respectable defensive efficiency, holding Indiana to a 96. On their own end, New York managed just 70 in offensive efficiency. The culprit was a plethora of missed shots in closing, as well as turnovers resulting in 18 Indiana points.
You can point to New York’s tough shooting night and mostly unforced errors leading to a 29% TO rate. When it gets down to it, you are looking at the difference of a franchise that has been there a number of times on recent occasion against one in a relatively unchartered area.
Credit Indiana. Stephanie White’s team had a good deal to do with the subpar Liberty performance, and a lot of it was rooted in being a team that had the experience and knew what had to be done; not just to battle back from the brink of elimination, but to close it out on the enemy floor.
The Indiana Fever are headed to the WNBA finals. They have that marquee player and leader in Tamika Catchings. They have a lot more in their favor as well. The Liberty found that out. Not just in game three, but this entire three-game series.
The Liberty dance team, the Timeless Torches, warms up behind the Garden floor:
Former New York Knicks standout John Starks greets a pair of devout fans:
Ahead by 11 at halftime, Indiana coach Stephanie White takes the floor for the final half with a look of determination:
Briann January running the Fever offense:
The ball is on the opposite side of the floor, but Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings stands in the stance, ready to shoot or penetrate should she receive the pass:
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer, addressing the contest after the game:
With the Liberty season now over, the Garden crew moves on to prepare for their next event: