INDIANAPOLIS — Tamika Catchings, the 2011 WNBA MVP, is one of the rare basketball players on the planet that impacts the game in different ways besides scoring.
In yesterday’s contest against the New York Liberty, Catchings’ skills were on full display.
The Indiana Fever (10-6) held on to an 84-82 midday win against the Liberty (6-11) with Catchings’ 23 points and clutch play leading the way.
Indiana led by as many as 12 in the third quarter, but New York did not go away quietly. The Liberty took the lead in the fourth at 77-73 after a Cappie Pondexter free throw and 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions.
The Fever were in desperate need of a field goal as Catchings received a pass in the corner but was unable to hold on to it.
With less than three minutes remaining, the turnover seemed to motivate the 11-year-pro as she had only one thought.
“Just get it back,” she said.
Catchings responded with a block and 3-pointer on ensuing possessions to cut the lead to one. She then followed that up with a rebound and another 3-pointer to put the Fever ahead 79-77 with 1:52 remaining.
“That’s one thing I try to tell everybody on the team when you make a mistake or something bad happens, whether it’s on the offensive end or defensive end, you have control over your destiny and what you can do,” Catchings said. “For me, my job is to make sure on defense that we get the ball back, whether it’s me actively doing something to get the ball or getting a rebound and kicking it up.”
Pondexter then tied the game with a jumper but Indiana guard Katie Douglas answered back immediately with a clutch 3-pointer. But Pondexter wasn’t done as she came right down and matched Douglas’ three, giving her a game and season high 33 points.
“Cappie had one of those nights where she became all-world,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.
Catchings snatched an offensive rebound from Briann January’s missed runner with 10.9 seconds remaining and was fouled by the Liberty’s Leilani Mitchell.
“When the game is on the line, I want Tamika Catchings at the free-throw line,” Dunn said.
The 82 percent free throw shooter made both from the charity stripe, setting up New York with one last opportunity.
But the Liberty were unable to convert as Essence Carson missed a five-footer and the ball was recovered by the Fever in the scramble afterwards as time expired.
“Felt like we could have won the game,” said Pondexter, who had 22 points in the second half. “We had a chance. It seems like we battle this team back and forth. Playoffs, regular season, for the past three years ever since I’ve been in New York.”