Fever survive high temps, humidity to win first outdoor game

NEW YORK -- Katie Douglas and the Indiana Fever stole the spotlight -- under the moonlight -- from the New York Liberty in the WNBA's first outdoor game.

On a basketball court laid on top of the tennis court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Douglas scored nine of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, Tamika Catchings had 15 points and nine rebounds, and the Fever (11-11) beat the Liberty 71-55 on Saturday night.

Even though the game was scheduled for a night start in hopes of avoiding the summer sun and heat, the game-time temperature was a steamy 87 degrees. The setting sun was only shining on one corner of the top level of seats, and there was a slight breeze blowing across the court from one corner.

"Probably the biggest thing both teams will have to be concerned about is making sure we stay hydrated," Catchings said. "Definitely trying to keep your body temperature low."

Catchings was also part of the first outdoor women's college game when Tennessee played Arizona State at Bank One Ballpark, the Arizona Diamondbacks' baseball stadium, on Dec. 27, 2000.

Since opening in 1997, the world's largest outdoor tennis-only venue has been the main stadium for the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It's where Serena and Venus Williams have won two women's titles each, and Roger Federer the last four men's championships.

For one night, there was a different ball bouncing on the court in the first outdoor regular-season game in professional basketball history -- men's or women's.

"It shows WNBA basketball is truly coming into its own," league president Donna Orender said before the game. "It shows the New York fans, their love and embrace of the Liberty. And I think it shows we're trendsetters because we make history tonight with the first professional basketball game being played outdoors."

The game drew 19,393 to the 23,226-seat stadium. The attendance fell short of the team's Garden record of 19,563, achieved three times -- the last against Charlotte on Aug. 11, 2002.

Fireworks shot out from the sides outside the stadium before the Liberty starting lineup was announced and on the court during the introductions as they ran on the court.

Janel McCarville had 10 points for New York (12-10), which had won three straight and five of seven coming in.

Indiana took control with an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter, taking a 48-34 lead on Ebony Hoffman's jumper with 1:29 to go in the period.

Douglas' fastbreak layup with 7:09 left in the game pushed the Fever's lead to 59-42.

The Liberty followed with two 3s -- one from Loree Moore and another by Cathrine Kraayeveld -- in a 28-second span to pull within 11, but didn't get any closer.

Catchings' reverse layup with 2:08 left gave Indiana a 68-49 lead, the Fever's biggest advantage of the game.

Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown added 12 points each for Indiana.

Indiana shot 42 percent (26-for-55) from the field, and held New York to 28 percent (18-for-63).

Both teams struggled with their shots at the start, with the Liberty missing their first four attempts and the Fever two. Catchings got Indiana on the scoreboard first with a 3-pointer 2:03 into the game. Essence Carson ended the Liberty's drought 57 seconds later.

Douglas scored seven points as the Fever used an 11-2 run over the final 5½ minutes of the first quarter to take an 18-8 lead.

The Liberty closed the first half on 11-6 run, capped by two free throws by Moore and a 3 by Shameka Christon in the final minute, to pull to 33-29 at the break.

The Liberty have ventured outside the Garden for home games before, playing six contests at Radio City Music Hall in 2004 while the Republican Convention took over Madison Square Garden.

The NBA's Phoenix Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in an outdoor preseason game on Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Suns are set to face the Denver Nuggets in another outdoor preseason game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., on Oct. 11.