INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Briann January scored 16 points and fellow all-star Tamika Catchings added 15 as the Indiana Fever clinched a playoff spot for the 10th straight season with a 76-63 win over the New York Liberty on Thursday night.
Indiana held the Liberty (13-19) to 39 percent shooting and used a stingy defense to build a 46-21 halftime margin. New York was limited to 27 percent shooting in the first half and committed 13 turnovers.
“We just knew we had to be prepared and come correct,” Catchings said. “We came in and we were really focused. We always talk about ‘Just get in the playoffs and don’t worry about how you get in.‘ I think for us, the pieces are starting to click.”
Tina Charles led the Liberty (14-18) with 15 points. Cappie Pondexter added 10 for New York. The Liberty made one final run to start the fourth quarter, pulling within 61-49 with 7:59 left in the game, but the Fever clamped down and held on down the stretch.
January’s seven points in the first quarter set the tone early for Indiana. She helped Indiana get out in front 13-7, then when her teammates got involved, Indiana was off and running.
While the playoff seeds are yet to be determined, New York was not eliminated with the loss. There is a scenario in which the Liberty can still make the playoffs. But Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer acknowledges Thursday’s loss has the Liberty on the outside looking in.
“We have to scoreboard watch,” Laimbeer said. “Destiny is out of our own hands.”
New York and Indiana will square off Sunday at Madison Square Garden in the regular season finale for both teams. Indiana will be going for a season series sweep against the Liberty for the first time since 2009.