Catchings lifts Fever past Liberty 84-81 in OTJul 19, 2010 - 12:41 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK(AP) -- After focusing on setting up her teammates for most of the game, Tamika Catchings took over in overtime and led the Indiana Fever to a big win.
Catchings scored nine of her 22 points in the extra period to lift Indiana to an 84-81 victory over the New York Liberty on Sunday, moving the defending Eastern Conference champions into first place.
"In between the fourth and going into the overtime ... my shot wasn't really falling, whether I wasn't really calling or whether I wasn't really looking for it, just trying to get everybody else involved," said Catchings, who also had 10 rebounds and seven assists. "It was kind of like, "All right, this is the time I have to step up. I have to make sure that we win this overtime and win the game."'
Katie Douglas finished with 21 points and Ebony Hoffman added 15 points to help the Fever (13-7) win for the fourth time in five games and jump percentage points ahead of Atlanta. Washington, which began the day in first place, lost to Chicago and fell a half game behind the Fever and Dream.
"We can't really focus on being first, second, third or fourth," Catchings said. "Every single game you go out you really have to focus on that game."
Cappie Pondexter had a franchise-record and career-high 40 points for New York (9-10), which fell to last place in the East - a half-game behind the Sky and 2 1/2 behind Connecticut for the conference's fourth and last playoff spot. Leilani Mitchell scored 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting on 3-pointers and Janel McCarville added 12 points.
The Liberty's previous high was 33 points, by Becky Hammon at Minnesota on June 6, 2003, and McCarville at Houston on Sept. 2, 2008. Pondexter eclipsed her previous best of 35 for Phoenix against Detroit on July 6, 2006.
"It's not about the points, it's about getting wins," Pondexter said. "We're definitely in the playoff race ... trying to get a spot in the East, so it's disappointing but we have to let it go. It's past us."
Catchings' tiebreaking 3-pointer gave the Fever the lead for good, 78-75 with 4 minutes left in overtime, and Douglas followed with a jumper 51 seconds later to push the lead to five.
"Everybody hit their shots," Catchings said. "I hit my first two, Katie hit that runner with the shot (clock) going down and our defense even picked up after that."
Pondexter's 3 pulled the Liberty to 80-79 with 2:10 to go, but Catchings hit two free throws 28 seconds later. Kalana Greene made two from the line for the Liberty with 1 1/2 minutes left to make it a one-point game again, but Catchings hit two more with 2.1 seconds left to seal Indiana's seventh straight win against New York.
The teams played an overtime game for the third time in three seasons and the fifth time in 19 regular-season meetings at New York. The Liberty won the longest, 102-96 in 30T on June 26, 2008, and Indiana won 84-81 in OT exactly a year later.
"It's like we're destined for overtime here," Douglas said. "I'm proud of the way we held together. At the beginning of the season, we wouldn't be able to do that. Things are clicking, people are understanding where to be at what spots, and we're getting stops when we need to get stops."
Catchings tied the score at 73-all with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 50.7 seconds left, a shot that was confirmed by video review.
Both teams had chances to win in the final minute of regulation.
Pondexter missed a 3 with about 23 seconds to go, and then a short jumper from the right side with about 10 seconds left. Indiana's Briann January missed a jumper from the left side and McCarville grabbed the rebound for New York. On the ensuing play, Catchings stole the inbounds pass near midcourt and launched a long 3 that missed off the rim at the buzzer.
"It's still room for us to get in (the playoffs) we just have to close out games when we have the opportunity," Pondexter said.
Mitchell's 3 gave the Liberty a 69-66 lead with 3:14 left, their first advantage since late in the second quarter. Pondexter's jumper with about 2 1/2 minutes to go put New York up five.
January and Tammy Sutton-Brown had consecutive jumpers to pull Indiana within one with 1:27 to go. Pondexter followed with a jumper 20 seconds later.
Hoffman and Douglas combined to score 18 consecutive points for Indiana during a 12-minute stretch of the second half, during which the Fever took a 56-47 lead - their biggest of the game - late in the third quarter.
Pondexter scored the next six points and Greene had a fast-break layup to pull the Liberty within one in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Mitchell's 3 tied the score at 60-all with 6:19 to go.
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