Liberty clinch top chance to win lottery with loss to Fever
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Katie Smith saw the silver lining in the Liberty’s loss to Indiana. New York clinched the best chance to win the WNBA draft lottery by losing to the Fever 86-81 on Friday night.
New York, which has a 44% opportunity to secure the top pick in the draft, blew a double-digit lead as Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points to lead the Fever. The Liberty are 16-51 over the past two years and Indiana is 18-49.
“If we get the first pick then yes that’s the silver lining for losing tonight,” Smith said. “I would have rather won the game.”
Indiana, by finishing with the second-worst two-year record, will have a 27% chance to get the No. 1 pick.
The Fever had the best chance to win the lottery last year and ended up with the No. 3 pick. Having a lower pick turned out well as Indiana drafted Teaira McCowan, who has been stellar in her rookie year. McCowan had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Fever (12-21). It was the fifth consecutive game that she had a double-double, breaking the team record. She now has 296 rebounds on the season just eight from breaking the team mark held by Erlana Larkins of 303 set in 2014.
With the victory, Indiana doubled its win total from last season.
“We have one more game left, so we’re going to focus on that one and finishing strong for our fans,” Fever center Natalie Achonwa said. “The positive is doubling the wins. We only had six last year and we have an upward trend. We lost a lot of games by less than 10 points and five points. Definitely growth, but we know we can be better next year.”
Trailing by double-digits in the second half, the Fever rallied behind Mitchell and McCowan.
Tina Charles’ basket with 5:57 left in the game gave New York an 81-72 lead. It was the Liberty’s final points of the game as Indiana scored the last 14. Candice Dupree’s jumper with 1:25 left gave Indiana its first lead of the fourth quarter. After Tanisha Wright missed a jumper, Mitchell hit a layup to extend the lead to 84-81 with 53 seconds left. Dupree and Mitchell each added a free throw in the final 25 seconds and New York (9-24) could get no closer. The Liberty were outscored 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
It was a back and forth first half with New York’s reserves playing well once again. Marine Johannes had 10 points and Brittany Boyd had six points, six assists and four rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. The Liberty led 49-43 at the break.
Tina Charles led New York with 19 points, and Johannes added 16.
HONORING T-SPOON: The Liberty wore warmup shirts for Teresa Weatherspoon, who is the Director of Player and Franchise Development for the team. Weatherspoon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night. The shirts had a list of her accomplishments on the back and a graphic on the front.
Fever: Host Connecticut on Sunday to close out their season
Liberty: At Atlanta on Sunday to close out their season.