INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's Tamika Catchings and Natalie
Williams knew what to expect from the playoff-tested New York
Catchings finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Williams
had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Fever to a 58-50 win over
the Liberty on Thursday night and a sweep of the first-round
The Fever advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first
time and will face the winner of the Connecticut-Detroit series,
with the best-of-three set to begin on Sept. 8.
Becky Hammon scored 14 points for the Liberty, who eliminated
Indiana in three games in the Fever's only other playoff appearance
"When they beat us in New York, they were so physical. We were
just getting beat up," Catchings said of the Liberty's playoff win
three seasons ago. "We knew they were going to beat us up again
tonight. We just had to keep attacking, and make them do something
Williams said defense made the difference, especially after the
Fever missed 20 of 21 shots during the second half.
"What it comes down to is what it has been all year --
defense," Williams said. "We miss 20 or 21 in a row, and our
defense saves us."
She said she was not happy with her performance in Game 1, when
she had eight points and four rebounds.
"I made sure to come out and do all the little things, play
great defense," she said.
The league awarded her for that great defense, naming her
defensive player of the year before the game.
"Our Achilles' heel all season has been allowing offensive
rebounds, and that came back to bite us tonight," Hammon said of
the Fever's 14-4 edge in offensive rebounds.
"We dug ourselves such a hole that we had to exert a lot of
energy to try to get back in it," she said. "I think once we made
our surge, there was not enough left to finish it up."
Liberty coach Pat Coyle said the Fever's defense made the
"I was surprised we didn't handle the pressure better," she
said. "They got us out of a lot of things we wanted to run. They
will guard you, rebound and not turn the ball over."
The Fever led by as many as 14 points in the first half and
withstood a late rally, led by Liberty center La'Keshia Frett, who
finished with 13 points.
Frett scored nine points, including seven straight, and Shameka
Christon scored on a fast-break layup, helping the Liberty outscore
the Fever 11-2 for their first lead at 37-35 with 7:50 remaining.
Catchings, who was named the WNBA defensive player of the year
before the game, answered with a 3-pointer from the right corner,
Miller scored on a fast break and then added a 3-pointer to put the
Fever ahead 43-37 with six minutes remaining. Frett hit two free
throws as the Liberty pulled within 49-45 with 2:30 to play.
But the Fever outscored New York 9-5 over the last 2 minutes,
all on free throws.