The first game of the Eastern Conference Finals was all New York. The Liberty came out and had their way with the Indiana Fever, claiming a 1-0 series lead and ensuring at most two chances to clinch the series and move on to the WNBA Finals. Now, the two squads will face each other in Indiana – a place that hasn’t been too kind to New York in recent history.
How Game 1 Went Down
If the New York Liberty had shown fatigue during the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, nary a soul would have batted an eye. Firstly, it’s the playoffs – a culmination of a season-long grind just to make it to this point. Secondly, it was a back-to-back, primarily due to the fact that the Pope had booked a date in Madison Square Garden long before the Liberty made its run.
But New York wasn’t sluggish at all. Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince helped pace the Liberty early as they clicked from the opening tip. Head coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad tightened up its defense and lifted its intensity back to levels that have become the norm this season.
Rookie center Kiah Stokes had perhaps the best game of her young career, scoring 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Stokes also made an impact – as she has all season – defensively.
On one particular play, Fever guard Shenise Johnson beat Tina Charles off the dribble and drove towards the basket. Johnson’s effort was commendable, but in the end it was Stokes who rotated, erased the shot and sent it flying out of bounds.
Stokes’ play was a shining example of just how tough the Liberty have been this season. On any given night, Laimbeer’s squad can shut down any team in the league with its combination of defensive prowess and an array of talents on the offensive side of the floor.
Now they’re one win away from the WNBA Finals – a place the Liberty have not been since 2002.
What To Expect In Game 2
As the series shifts back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Fever will be playing for their playoff lives. But this isn’t the first time they’ve been in this position in this postseason. Indiana knocked off Chicago in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to force a third and deciding game.
Guided by the veteran leadership of Tamika Catchings, the Fever are looking to win a pivotal second game to extend their season and force a winner-take-all third game in Madison Square Garden.
So, what should we expect in Game 2?
Expect head coach Stephanie White to invigorate the Fever on both ends of the floor. Indiana shot 46% from the floor, which is a mark that many teams would be satisfied with when the game ends. But the issue was twofold. The Liberty took away shots that were normally there for Indiana, and Indiana failed to match New York’s defensive intensity.
That should change in Game 2. Indiana will likely be zoned in and ready to make a statement by slowing a New York team that has had its fair share of struggles in Indianapolis. Although New York was the WNBA’s best road team, New York lost three times in Bankers Life Fieldhouse this year.
To put that into perspective, New York lost six road games all year. However, it’s the playoffs, and anything can happen. Laimbeer will have his squad focused on closing out a series and advancing, while White is sure to have Indiana ready to answer the call and secure a Game 3 in MSG.
Tina Charles nearly posted a triple-double in the first game of the series, logging 18 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds.
Kiah Stokes may be rookie, but she sure didn’t play like one in the first game of the series. Stokes scored a career-best 21 points and pulled down five boards.
Fever guard Shenise Johnson produced the highlight-reel play of Game 1 with this ankle-breaking crossover.