Pondexter, Carson lead Liberty past Fever 85-73Aug 27, 2010 - 2:54 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- A starter for most of her first two seasons, Essence Carson has been relegated to a reserve role with little playing time this year. She took advantage of extra minutes Thursday night and helped the New York Liberty to a big win in their playoff opener.
Cappie Pondexter scored 23 of her 28 points in the first half, Carson scored nine of her 17 in a key fourth-quarter run and the Liberty beat the Indiana Fever 85-73 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
"You have to be ready when your number's called, no matter how many minutes you play," said Carson who started 64 of 68 games the previous two years and none this season. "Whether its 2 seconds or whether its 40 minutes."
Carson started all 34 games last season and 30 of 34 as a rookie in 2008. This year, she has come off the bench every game, averaging just 3.7 points and 9.6 minutes. In this game, she had season highs in scoring, field goals (7) and minutes (26).
"I said that the entire season that I'm going to be ready because one day your number will be called," Carson said. "No matter when it is, what game it is, whether its the championship game or if it's a game that pretty much doesn't mean too much. But this game means a lot and I was happy to be called upon."
Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Nicole Powell added 13 points for the Liberty, who closed the regular season with 15 wins in 18 games after the All-Star break.
Game 2 is Sunday at Indianapolis and Game 3, if necessary will be next Wednesday back in Madison Square Garden.
Tamika Catchings scored 18 points, Ebony Hoffman had 13 and Tammy Sutton-Brown added 10 for the Fever, who were in first place heading into the final week but lost their last three and finished one game behind Washington and New York.
Indiana shot 53 percent (17 for 32) in the first half, but just 30 percent (9 for 30) over the final 20 minutes. The Liberty outrebounded the Fever 39-24, including 15 offensive boards.
"There was a period when we missed layup and another layup and another and they came up and answered," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "Their offensive rebounds finally broke our back. ... If we have any hope of beating this team at home we have to do a better job on the boards."
Powell's jumper with 2:15 left in the third quarter gave the Liberty the lead for good as they closed the period with a 9-2 run to take a 66-59 advantage heading to the fourth. The Liberty outscored Indiana 18-12 in the quarter and outshot the Fever 40 percent (8 for 20) to 31 percent (4 for 13).
Carson had nine points in a 17-2 spurt that extended New York's lead to 83-63 - its biggest of the game - with 2:40 left.
"Offensively, that kind of lift is a wonderful thing to get from anybody off the bench," Donovan said. "(Carson) has remained focused, composed and confident. When her number was called she just stepped right in and did the job for us at both ends."
Hoffman's 3-pointer 14 seconds later - the Fever's third field goal of the fourth quarter - ended their scoring drought of 4:39.
Pondexter topped the Liberty's previous postseason record of 24 points, set by Tari Phillips against Houston in Game 1 of the WNBA finals on Aug. 24, 2000. Pondexter also tied the team's playoff record for 3-pointers, set by Vickie Johnson on Aug. 24, 2002, in Game 2 of the conference finals against Washington.
After shooting 8 for 15 in the first half, Pondexter was just 1 for 8 after the break. Donovan said part of that was because Pondexter was playing point guard a little more, as Leilani Mitchell - selected as the league's Most Improved Player earlier in the day - played just 6 1/2 minutes in the second half.
"Leilani was on the bench a little bit more," Donovan said. "(She) struggled a little bit for a stretch. We put Cappie on (Briann) January, and that changes the tempo. When Cappie is running our point she doesn't get as many opportunities as she did in the first half."
The Fever opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 33-23 lead on Catchings' layup with 7:40 to go in the first half.
The Liberty scored the next seven points, pulling within four on Pondexter's 3 about a minute later. Her fifth 3 of the game tied the score at 43-all with 2:05 left, and she made two free throws with less than a second left to give New York a 48-47 lead at the break.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
INDIANA 22 25 12 14 73
NEW YORK 21 27 18 19 85 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: IND - TAMIKA CATCHINGS 18, EBONY HOFFMAN 13,
TAMMY SUTTON-BROWN 10
NYL - CAPPIE PONDEXTER 28, ESSENCE CARSON 17,
TAJ MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN 15
Aug 26 9:06 PM
NEW YORK 21 END, 1ST QTR
Aug 26 7:32 PM
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