WNBA

Liberty-Fever Preview

Though the New York Liberty may be enjoying life at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Fever are doing their best to make sure they're not feeling too comfortable.

The East's top two teams get together Sunday in Indianapolis, with the red-hot Fever having a chance to close within a game of New York's lead.

Indiana (16-9) has emerged as the Liberty's biggest threat by ripping off eight victories in nine games since the All-Star break. That includes an 84-72 home win over New York on July 29, the Liberty's lone loss in their last seven road contests.

The Fever also dealt New York (18-7) an 80-63 defeat in Madison Square Garden on June 19, avenging a seven-point loss there 10 days prior. They've averaged 81.0 points and shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range in the three meetings, strong numbers against a Liberty team that leads the WNBA in scoring defense (69.9 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (38.0).

Indiana also owns seven consecutive wins at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Liberty have lost four straight and visit again for the Sept. 13 regular-season finale.

"It's going to be tough," New York star center Tina Charles told the team's official website. "They're up one on us right now, so we want to definitely go and get the victory."

New York has kept its hold on first place by winning 11 of 13 and two straight in impressive fashion. After smothering San Antonio in a 73-45 road rout Wednesday, the Liberty stifled Atlanta down the stretch of Friday's 78-67 triumph. New York outscored the Dream 39-19 over the final 16 minutes to overcome a nine-point second-half deficit, with Charles netting 17 of her 25 points after intermission.

The Fever return home from a perfect four-game trip capped with Friday's 75-63 verdict over Seattle, Indiana's fifth consecutive win and seventh straight by double digits.

Down 43-37 at halftime, the Fever outscored the Storm 30-9 in the third quarter and yielded just 20 second-half points.

"As the game progressed, I thought our depth wore them down," coach Stephanie White told the team's official site. "They read and space the floor so well that they got whatever they wanted in the first half. But we turned up the intensity and got some easy buckets, and that led to being more aggressive on offense, too."

Shenise Johnson paced Indiana with 16 points and had 19 with eight rebounds in the last meeting with New York. The sharp-shooting guard is 5 for 9 on 3-point tries against the Liberty this season, while Maggie Lucas is 8 for 16 from long range for the series.

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