The New York Liberty have had a few days off to recover from a whirlwind road trip, but a matchup with the surging Indiana Fever could provide another stern test.
The Fever will try to match their longest winning streak of the year when they face the Liberty for the final time this season Thursday night.New York (9-15) won three of its first four after the Olympic break, with two victories coming on a five-game trip that took the team from Connecticut to Seattle in nine days.The hectic schedule, though, appeared to catch up to the Liberty this past weekend, as they failed to top 66 points in losses to Los Angeles and Seattle after averaging 79.8 in their previous four games.They scored nine points in the opening quarter en route to an 84-66 defeat to the Storm on Sunday. Cappie Pondexter had 23 points but was the only New York player in double figures."Without taking anything away from Seattle, the league ought to take some of our loss," coach John Whisenant said. "It was a terrible schedule."Having had three days off before a season-high six-game homestand, Whisenant's team will try to thwart Indiana's attempt at a fourth consecutive win. The Liberty can also take the lead over idle Chicago in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth, as the teams are tied for the spot.The Fever, 5-1 since the break, are trying to catch conference-leading Connecticut. Indiana (15-8) is 2 1/2 games behind the Sun."I feel like a sense of urgency is there," forward Tamika Catchings told the team's website following an 83-68 win over Washington on Tuesday. "If everybody on this team does her job, we can be a really good team and we can have a really big shot at winning the (WNBA) championship."The Fever haven't won four straight since a team record-tying 4-0 start to this season. They've lost in each of their last three visits to New York, including once during the playoffs last year.Indiana won that series in three games and has taken two of three meetings this season. Catchings hit the winning free throws with 8.4 seconds left in the most recent one, an 84-82 home victory July 10.Indiana also blew out New York 91-68 on June 2 -- part of its 4-0 start -- but couldn't complete the home-and-home sweep the next day as Pondexter helped her team snap a franchise-worst 0-5 mark to begin the season.The Liberty guard, averaging 24.4 points in her last eight games, scored 25 in that 87-72 victory and had a season-high 33 during the loss in July.