Series Preview: New York Liberty (2) vs. Indiana Fever (3)

Aug 23 2010 11:39AM
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between New York and Indiana?
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between New York and Indiana?
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The first-round matchup between the New York Liberty (22-12) and Indiana Fever (21-13) will stand as the ultimate rubber match to the regular season’s 2-2 series split.

If recent play is any indication of how teams may fair in the postseason, then evidence would suggest momentum is certainly on the Liberty's side. After posting a sub-par 7-9 first-half record, the Liberty came flying into the second half following the Stars at the Sun game on July 10, tallying a 15-3 second-half record that included a franchise-best 10-straight wins and a 9-1 record for the month of August. Sunday’s win over the Connecticut Sun rewarded the team for its hard work with the second seed in the East.

Cappie Pondexter may have ended the regular season ranked second overall in scoring with 21.4 ppg, but the latest stretch of Liberty victories has shown some solid contributions from the likes of point guard Leilani Mitchell (9.3 ppg) and forward Nicole Powell (9.3 ppg).

The added size from Taj McWilliams-Franklin (5.4 rpg) and Janel McCarville (5.9), combined with the blue-collar style of Plenette Pierson gives the Libs a presence in the paint that might not necessarily rank at the top of the league in the rebounding category (10th overall), but the team’s overall rebound differential of -.73 allows them to play on par with opponents both big and small.

Gm 1: at New York, Thur., 8/26, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Gm 2: at Indiana, Sun., 8/29, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Gm 3*: at New York, Wed., 9/1, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV
For the Indiana Fever, MVP candidate Tamika Catchings has made it obvious not only through her words but also by her caliber of play that she wants to return to the WNBA Finals and end the season with a different outcome than last. Averaging PPG, RPG, APG and SPG, Catchings remains the backbone of consistency for the Fever in what is now her ninth season with the club.

Throughout the season the Fever pieced together two separate five-game win streaks and remained a regular sight at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Behind the aforementioned play of Catchings, the Fever remains a team ripe with talent, many of whom played with last year’s 2009 team. In fact, with the exception of Shavonte Zellous, who was acquired in trade with Tulsa back on May 27, and rookies Jene Morris and Joy Cheek, the remaining eight players were part of last season’s roster.

Veterans Tully Bevilaqua (11th season), Katie Douglas (ninth season) and Tammy Sutton-Brown (9th season) add a degree of leadership and experience to the Fever that teammates have come to rally behind. That much is evident following the recent news of Indiana extending both Douglas and Sutton-Brown’s contracts to keep them staffed in a Fever jersey.

At this point in the game, the success of each team relies on one simple game plan: stick with what works. The Fever may have found its chemistry earlier in the season than that of the Liberty, but New York’s late run through the Eastern Conference standings certainly raised a few eyebrows. Whether it comes down to the MVP-like play of Pondexter of Catchings, fans are likely in for a real treat with this 2/3 matchup.

2010 Regular Season: New York 2, Indiana 2
Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
  • The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2005. Indiana won the series 2-0.
  • This is Anne Donovan's first full season as head coach of the Liberty
  • New York posted a 9-1 record for the month of August
  • Tamika Catchings averaged 20 ppg and 7 rpg during the regular season
  • Cappie Pondexter scored a career-high 40 points against the Fever on July 18
Saturday, June 5, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN: Fever 78, Liberty 73 | Box score | Highlights
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (19 pts., 3 ast.), Tamika Catchings (14 pts., 9 ast, 7 reb.)
New York Leaders: Cappie Pondexter (21 pts., 7 reb.), Taj McWilliams-Franklin (11 pts., 5 reb.)

Sunday, July 18, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY: Fever 84, New York 81 | Box score | Highlights
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (22 pts., 10 reb.), Katie Douglas (21 pts., 4 reb.)
New York Leaders: Cappie Pondexter (40 pts., 7 ast.), Leilani Mitchell (15 pts., 2 ast.)

Tuesday, August 3, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN: Liberty 82, Fever 72 | Box score | Highlights
New York Leaders: Nicole Powell (20 pts., 4 reb.), Cappie Pondexter (19 pts., 6 reb.)
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (19 pts., 6 reb.), Briann January (10 pts., 2 ast.)

Tuesday, August 17, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY: Liberty 78, Fever 57 | Box score
New York Leaders: Leilani Mitchell (19 pts., 5 ast.), Taj McWilliams-Franklin (14 pts., 10 reb.)
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (25 pts., 5 reb.), Jessica Davenport (9 pts., 3 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position

Leilani Mitchell, G, Liberty
9.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.8 APG
Note: Prior to averaging 9.3 ppg this season, Mitchell's career-high was 3.9 ppg in 2008
Tully Bevilaqua, G, Fever
3.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.6 APG
Note: Won a championship with the Storm in 2004
Cappie Pondexter, G, Liberty
21.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.9 APG
Note: Cappie's ppg total in 2010 is a new career-high
Katie Douglas, G, Fever
13.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.3 APG
Note: During last year's playoff run, Douglas averaged 15.5 ppg
Nicole Powell, F, Liberty
9.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Tied a career-high seven three-pointers made on 8/14 against the Mercury
Tamika Catchings, F, Fever
18.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG
Note: Finished first in the league with 2.26 steals per game
Janel McCarville, F, Liberty
8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Her 5.9 RPG is a new career high
Ebony Hoffman, F, Fever
8.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.3 APG
Note: Has played all seven years of her career with the Fever
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, C, Liberty
10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.0 APG
Note: Ranks second overall on the all-time list for total rebounds with 2,631
Tammy Sutton-Brown, C, Fever
8.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.62 BPG
Note: Ranked third in the league in blocks per game (1.62)