WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Indiana Fever surged during a record-breaking fourth quarter Saturday afternoon to upend the New York Liberty, 68-55, at Westchester County Center and win for the third time in five games.
Indiana, 5-23, won consecutive games for the first time since May 20 and 24, 2017, and ended a five-game losing streak against the Liberty. The last-place Fever have won three of their last five games and eliminated the Liberty, 7-20, from the WNBA playoff race.
Candice Dupree paced the Fever with a season-high 25 points to help Indiana overcome a Friday flight cancelation and 2-of-17 shooting in the opening period. Dupree shot 10-of-18 overall to lead four double-figure scorers for Indiana, but it was Indiana’s defense and the Liberty’s shooting woes in the fourth quarter that accented the turnaround.
“It was nice to have consistency on the defensive end after our first quarter,” said Fever coach Pokey Chatman who saw her club limit the Liberty to just two points in the final period, matching the second fewest points in any fourth quarter in league history. It was the fewest points the Fever has ever allowed in any quarter as the Liberty missed all 15 shot attempts in the final period to become the eighth WNBA team ever to miss every field goal attempt in a single quarter.
Chatman continued, “A lot of times when we have missed shots ourselves, we’ve let that impact us on defense, limiting our consistency in schemes and execution. We didn’t let that happen today. Our goal always is to force people into contested 2-pointers. We stayed to our principles on defense, even when things were rough on the other end.”
Indiana, 5-23, won consecutive games for the first time since May 20 and 24, 2017, and ended a five-game losing streak against the Liberty. The last-place Fever eliminated the Liberty, 7-20, from the WNBA playoff race by forcing 20 turnovers and allowing the fewest points by an Indiana opponent since a Sept. 1, 2015 win over Connecticut.
Fourth-year center Natalie Achonwa notched her fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The Fever also got 10 points apiece from backcourt mates Cappie Pondexter and Erica Wheeler.
Tina Charles was the only New York player in double-figure scoring, leading the Liberty with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
With a short jumper at the 6:26 mark of the third quarter, Wheeler helped whittle what had been an early 15-point deficit into a manageable 41-37 margin, with the 1,000th point of her career. Undrafted out of Rutgers in 2013, she became only the seventh undrafted free agent in WNBA history to amass 1,000 career points and 300 career assists.
Indiana never led until the fourth period but scored seven straight points to capture its first lead with 7:58 remaining on a pair of free throws by Tiffany Mitchell. Up 54-53, the Fever scoring surge continued with 2-point and 3-point jumpers by Pondexter on consecutive possessions, forcing a Liberty timeout with 5:24 to go.
Following a Liberty free throw from Bria Hartley, Indiana used another 8-0 mini-spurt to complete a 20-1 stretch since the third quarter and command a 67-54 lead in the final moments.
The Fever were jubilant at game’s end, but things looked sleepy and sluggish early.
Arriving to New York late Saturday morning after travel delays from Indianapolis, the Fever arrived in White Plains just two hours before a scheduled bus departure to the arena. Indiana trailed 19-4 in the early moments, but the last-place Fever drew to within 35-31 at intermission and gained momentum in the second half.
Indiana’s woeful first quarter featured just 2-of-17 (12 percent) shooting while surrendering six turnovers and spotting the Liberty a 21-7 lead after 10 minutes. Pondexter brought the Fever within 9-4 on the club’s first basket with 5:01 left in the period. But 10 unanswered points from the Liberty produced a four-minute scoring drought. Victoria Vivians’ 3-pointer at the 1:09 mark was the Fever’s only other scoring in their lowest-scoring first period through 28 games.
The Fever managed a 10-0 spurt in the second quarter, getting six points from Wheeler and four from Dupree to pull the visitors within 29-27. In contrast to the opening quarter, Indiana shot 50 percent from the floor while forcing nine Liberty turnovers. Excluding the slow start, Indiana shot 44 percent during the final three periods and committed just six more miscues.
Indiana hosts the first-place Seattle Storm at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Indiana Fever at New York Liberty
Veteran forward Candice Dupree led the way for the Fever on Saturday afternoon, posting 25 points and pulling down six rebounds in a road victory over the Liberty.
Natalie Achonwa anchored the Fever inside with another double-double in a road victory over the Liberty, putting up 10 points and pulling down 13 rebounds on Saturday afternoon.
Starting point guard Erica Wheeler put up 10 points and dished out an impressive seven assists in the Fever’s Saturday road win in New York.
Cappie Pondexter provided crucial points for the Fever down the stretch as they defeated the Liberty 68-55 on the road.