Commentary

Fever, Lib sputtering into playoffs

Originally Published: September 12, 2011
By Michelle Smith | espnW

CatchingsAP Photo/Michael ConroyHow well Tamika Catchings' right knee feels might determine how far Indiana goes.

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Western Conference: Minnesota-San Antonio | Seattle-Phoenix
Eastern Conference: Indiana-New York | Connecticut-Atlanta

(1) Indiana vs. (4) New York

The Fever finished atop the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2009, when they reached the WNBA finals and were runners-up to Phoenix. Indiana and New York split the regular-season series 2-2.

Neither team has overwhelming momentum after a bruising finish in the Eastern Conference. Indiana has lost six of nine heading into the postseason and New York has gone 4-4 in its past eight games. But New York defeated Indiana on Friday night at home.

Fever forward Tamika Catchings, a league MVP contender, sat on the bench for Sunday's regular-season finale with a right knee strain. Having "Catch" at her best will be a must for Indiana to advance to the conference finals for the fourth time since 2005.

The key to this series for the Fever could be the post play of Jessica Davenport. If Davenport can rule inside and open up things for Indiana shooters, such as veteran Katie Douglas, the Fever have a great chance to move on.

New York, meanwhile, is looking to reach the conference finals for the third time in the last four years and will need a hot shooting hand from Cappie Pondexter to get there.

Pondexter has struggled offensively of late, averaging 11.5 points over the past five games, off her season average of 17.5. She's shooting 13-of-59 from the field over the past four games.

Rebecca Lobo: What to watch

It's worth watching this series simply because Catchings and Pondexter are playing. No one plays harder on every play than Catchings, and Pondexter is the best one-on-one offensive player in the game. Both teams are great defensively, too -- but Tamika and Cappie are the reasons to watch.

Who wins?

Michelle Smith: Fever in 3. The Fever, with a healthy Catchings and the home-court advantage, will move on.

Mechelle Voepel: Fever in 2. The Fever lost their last two games of the season, and three of their last five. One of those was an eight-point defeat at New York on Friday. Catchings is nursing a knee injury, and Erin Phillips is doing the same with ankle woes. So why pick the Fever? I expect that once the playoffs begin, Indiana will rally from its injury problems and rise to the occasion. The Fever's ability to defend on the interior could be a deciding factor in this series.

Pat Borzi: Liberty in 2. Even with Douglas shaking her shooting slump and Catchings in the midst of another MVP-worthy season, the balanced Liberty have played so well down the stretch that knocking off the top seed in the East shouldn't be considered an upset or a surprise. Pondexter leads New York on both ends of the floor.

Meri-Jo Borzilleri: Liberty in 3. Indiana is the No. 1 seed and has home-court advantage through the conference playoffs, but it has lost six of its last nine. That includes an 83-75 loss to the Liberty on Friday. The teams were 2-2 in the regular season. The fourth-seeded Liberty will look to leading scorer Pondexter (17.5 ppg), Essence Carson and Nicole Powell for the upset.

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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