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Third quarter struggles hurt New York Liberty in blowout losses

The New York Liberty have lost four of their last five games, including two of their last three at home in blowout fashion. The search for answers involves turnovers, but also poor third quarters.

Photo by Ray Floriani.

NEWARK, NJ - The time worn NBA stereotype is you can show up with two minutes to go and see all the pertinent action.

The WNBA has not been labeled as such.

The league has their share of close contests but the bottom line is, you have to take care of business in the prior three quarters to put yourself in a position to earn a victory.

All of this comes to mind in the aftermath of the New York Liberty's 74-53 defeat at the hands of the Indiana Fever on Saturday. The Prudential Center meeting saw a very even first 20 minutes with the visitors holding a narrow 37-34 lead. The next ten minutes were a shock, to the Liberty and Fever as well.

New York was outscored 31-6 in those third ten minutes - Indiana simply dominated.

They attacked the basket. Once the inside threat was established, the Fever buried shots from the perimeter, shots the Liberty was slow in closing out to defend. Another illustration of the Fever dominance comes in points per possession. Without entering into an involved analytics discussion, suffice to say, you want to hold opponents under 1.00 point per possession while attaining that number on your offensive end. In that third quarter the Fever rang up 1.55 points per possession while New York was an anemic .32. A sizeable disparity. Entering quarter number four Indiana led 68-40. 'Game time' for all intents and purposes.

Cappie Pondexter does not need analytics to illustrate the problem. The New York backcourt star knows the problem, but can't put her finger on it.

"For some reason we seem to come out a lot in the third quarter and struggle," she said.

Pondexter made specific reference to the turnover problem. The Liberty coughed the ball up 22 times on the game and eight in that third quarter from Hell.

"Our turnovers hurt bad enough," she said. "But what adds to the problem is we get them at the worst time. At times when we need a basket to stop a team's run. The timing of our turnovers is the worst part."

Coach Bill Laimbeer said the turnover situation was so bad that, "for what seemed awhile (in the third quarter) we couldn't get a shot off." During that juncture the coach added, "they (Indiana) started scoring and got on a run."

Indiana coach Lin Dunn said the only halftime adjustment was directed to defending Plennt Pierson on low post catches. Fever rookie guard Layshia Clarendon did add, "we came out and defended a lot harder. We forced turnovers and that helped our offense."

For those of you 'scoring at home' as they say, Indiana is now 5-8. New York is 6-8 but there is concern with blowout losses in two of their last three games. The inside/outside attack of the Fever saw Briana Larkins with a game high 15 points and Shavonte Zellous with 13. On the perimeter Ein Phiilips (13) and Briann January (10) led the way. New York was paced by Plennette Pierson's as points.

Beyond the sheer numbers and analytics is the team's psyche. In last week's lopsided loss to Chicago and here after this game got out of hand, Laimbeer sat almost motionless and quiet. Pondexter assures the team is still in a good frame of mind.

"I think everyone is fine," she said. "We are frustrated in the sense we know our potential."

On Laimbeer's side he looks to get back to day to day preparation. A laboratory designed to hopefully find the answer.

"We have to get back to practice," he said. "That will tell us a lot and let us know what changes may be needed." Practice(s) will be vital for the Liberty especially with two dates against Chicago on tap this week.