NEW YORK CITY - The team is almost impossible to figure.
Coming off a home win over the Connecticut Sun on Friday, the New York Liberty hosted Indiana at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The Fever entered with a three game losing streak and the feeling was the hosts had a great opportunity to get a crucial win.
It was not to be as the Fever posted a convincing 90-76 victory.
"We played with fire a bit the second half," Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. "But overall we did not have the intensity. Credit Indiana, they came to play and took it like a playoff game."
Little surprise regarding the coach's last assessment. The Fever have made the playoffs ten consecutive years. This season they are still in the hunt though perilously close to ending the 2014 campaign at the final regular season buzzer. The win in New York improved the record to 14-17 and kept those hopes alive.
Tamika Catchings of the Fever paced all scorers with 29 points. The 6-foot-1 forward was able to step out on the perimeter with lethal 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Catchings was effective inside as well but the presence of Erlana Larkins (14 points 6 rebounds), another 6-foot-1 forward, afforded her the freedom to obtain those good outside looks.
Forget the X's and O's for a minute - the sets diagrammed on the grease board would not make a significant difference. Sure, Laimbeer admitted, the staff could look at film and see "how (Tina) Charles was defended or how we could do better defense (Tamika) Catchings." In the end, beyond the technical aspect, it comes down to the drive and commitment.
"It is worrisome, no doubt," Laimbeer admitted regarding his club's mindset. "We were a step slow today."
A positive to take away was the contribution of Cappie Pondexter, the leading Liberty scorer with 18 points. Of late, Pondexter had not been scoring consistently. Charles was able to add 17 and the bench, led by Sugar Rodgers (9 points) made some contributions. In the end, per Laimbeer, it all gets back to the entire team.
"We need the fortitude and intensity to compete at the highest level," he said. "You have to know what is required of you as an individual and group collectively. You have to experience he intensity of each moment."
Which includes practice as well as games.
The Liberty fell to 13-17 and time is running out. Laimbeer said his concern was simply getting ready for Phoenix's visit to MSG on Tuesday. Another loss would put them a full game behind the idle Fever and Chicago Sky in the Eastern Conference playoff race with just three games left on their schedule. There is no debating the fact, the Liberty must face each and every game as their last as they battle for their playoff lives - much like Indiana did on Sunday.