Johnson hits winner to help Fever slip past Liberty, 80-79
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings scored 14 points to lead a balanced offense and Shenise Johnson hit the go-ahead jumper with 1:32 left to help the Indiana Fever beat the New York Liberty 80-79 on Sunday night.
Natalie Achonwa and Maggie Lucas scored 11 points apiece while Johnson and Lynetta Kizer added 10 each for the Fever (17-9), who pulled within a game of the Eastern Conference leading Liberty.
''We shared the basketball extremely well,'' Indiana coach Stephanie White said. ''We have five players in double figures. We had tremendous balance.''
Kizer's hook shot in the lane gave Indiana, which led by as many as 12 points in the first half, a 78-77 lead. Tina Charles answered to put New York back on top with 1:58 to play.
Johnson's pull-up jumper 26 seconds later proved to be the winner.
Trailing by one, New York forced a turnover with 20 seconds left. After a timeout, Epiphanny Prince's shot was off the mark on a contested jumper from the right elbow in the final seconds.
Tina Charles led the Liberty (18-8) with 18 points.
The Fever have won six games in a row and eight straight at home.
Indiana scored 55 points in the first half, the most it has scored before halftime this season, on 56 percent shooting, but sputtered to start the third quarter.
The Fever missed five of their first six shots and had four turnovers in the first 4:29 of the second half and a jumper by Charles trimmed New York's nine-point halftime deficit to 58-54 just over five minutes into the third quarter.
''We came out kind of flat in the third quarter, which we kind of put ourselves in a hole but I'm proud of my team,'' Catchings said. ''I'm proud of the way we continued to fight; we stepped up when we needed to.''
Wright made a layup to cap a 7-0 run that gave the Liberty its first lead of the game with 9:11 remaining.
The Fever scored 10 of the next 14 points to take a 75-71 lead with 5:24 left before New York scored six in a row.
Indiana was 7 of 15 from 3-point range while the Liberty hit just 2 of 8. The Fever made more free throws (19) than New York attempted (18).
''They made more three balls than we did, shot more free throws so that was the story of the game right there,'' New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. ''We had a chance to win the game and we didn't make a shot.''
Prince finished with 15 points and Brittany Boyd had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Liberty.
Briann January, whose tight defense forced a tough shot by Prince in the final seconds, had nine points and five assists for Indiana.
''Bri got a huge stop at the end of that game,'' Lucas said. ''Sometimes it comes down to that. She's an unbelievable defensive player.''