The defending champion Indiana Fever are surging and that's bad news for the New York Liberty.
The Fever have climbed into playoff position ahead of the Liberty, and these teams headed in opposite directions meet Tuesday night in Indianapolis.Indiana (7-8) has won six of seven following a seven-game slide. The Fever had a 38-29 advantage on the glass and held Washington to 30.9 percent in Sunday's 65-52 road win."I feel like our defense and rebounding has been huge for us right now," star forward Tamika Catchings said. "That's something we've been known for over the years, our defensive tenacity."The Fever's 74-53 rout at New York (6-10) on July 13 is part of this stretch. Indiana gained revenge for a 75-68 overtime defeat to the Liberty on June 5.New York has stumbled to lose six of seven under first-year coach Bill Laimbeer. The Liberty have dropped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the Fever and Mystics for a playoff berth.New York fell to 1-6 on the road with Saturday's 80-69 defeat to Chicago. Cappie Pondexter scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting after connecting on 21.9 percent of her attempts over her previous three games.Now the Liberty will try to avoid their first four-game slide since an 0-4 start in 2012.One factor behind Indiana's improvement is that the club has had eight different players sit out at least once due to injury. It also initially had trouble adjusting without four-time All-Star Katie Douglas -- who has missed the last 13 games with a back injury.Those days are over now. One example is reserve Layshia Clarendon's 22 points during the Fever's three-game win streak after the rookie wasn't as effective earlier in the year."Where we are better is our subs are better than the last time we were here," coach Lin Dunn said. "They've played all through this adversity, they've played quality minutes and when they go in, a lot doesn't drop off."The Liberty average a league-worst 18.4 turnovers while the Fever force a WNBA-best 17.7 per game.That was a factor in the last meeting as Indiana forced 22 turnovers and took control of the contest by outscoring New York 31-6 in the third quarter.Catchings, who ranks second in the league with 3.2 steals per game, posted her second double-double with 23 points and 10 boards Sunday.The Fever have won the last five home matchups, including two in the 2011 playoffs.