Fever Rest Starters, Drop Regular Season Finale

August 17, 2014

NEW YORK – Plenette Pierson scored 15 points and Anna Cruz added 10 as the New York Liberty outlasted the Indiana Fever on Sunday, 73-61, at Madison Square Garden.

The Liberty scored the game’s final eight points to withstand back-to-back 3-pointers by the Fever’s Maggie Lucas with less than three minutes to play. But after Lucas’ fourth 3 of the game brought the Fever within 4 points with 2:06 to play, Indiana never scored again.

Lucas played 27 minutes and scored a career-high 17 points off the bench, pacing an Indiana lineup poised to help the Fever get fresh for the upcoming playoffs.

“Coach told us we were going to get some experience tonight, get some playing time to prepare for the playoffs. I’m just disappointed we didn’t get the win,” said Lucas.

In what was the final game of the regular season for both teams, little was relevant after the Liberty was eliminated from playoff contention Friday and Indiana locked up the East’s No. 2 seed on Saturday. Usual Indiana starters Tamika Catchings, Briann January and Erlana Larkins did not play.

“The purpose tonight was to get rest,” said Lin Dunn, who will make her WNBA-record seventh straight playoffs appearance as head coach next week. “Once you get into the playoffs, you need to make sure you are rested and injury-free. You want to be fresh and healthy,” she added, in reference to resting her starters.

“It also gave our bench some valuable experience. I thought [Shavonte] Zellous played well, even handling the point at times, and I thought Maggie had a really nice game. It was good experience for her.”

Lynetta Kizer got her first start of the season and scored the game’s opening bucket. But New York scored eight unanswered points on the way to a 22-12 lead after one period in what seemed could become a Liberty rout.

Lucas, Kizer and the rest of Indiana’s regular bench players got marquee minutes though, and scrapped the Fever back within 2, 28-26, on another basket by Kizer. The Liberty never lost control and Indiana never regained the lead, but New York never again led by double digits until Avery Warley-Talbert’s layin with 45 seconds left in the contest.

The Liberty led 36-32 at intermission and pushed to a 9-point lead at 51-42 in the final minute of the third, but the Fever answered quickly with scores by Zellous and Krystal Thomas. Zellous, with Marissa Coleman the Fever’s only regular starters who logged minutes, had 11 points for Indiana. Kizer had eight points with eight rebounds. Natasha Howard had eight points with six boards.

In the fourth, a Lucas 3-pointer kept the Fever within 55-51, and Howard scored twice while trading baskets with Shanece McKinney and Sugar Rodgers, keeping the margin at 4. Swin Cash and Charde Houston gave the Libs an 8-point lead with 3:47 to play, but Lucas hit two more threes, sandwiched around another Houston bucket, to keep Indiana within striking distance, 65-61, with 2:06 remaining.

Indiana’s playoff schedule still is pending, though by virtue of a Chicago loss on Sunday, the Fever knows it will match up against No. 3-seed Washington in next week’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Fever will host the Mystics in Game 1 of the series, on Thursday, Aug. 21 or Friday, Aug. 22.

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