After loss to Fever, Bill Laimbeer says Liberty lacks intensity

New York Liberty's Tina Charles (31) and Charde New York Liberty's Tina Charles (31) and Charde Houston (22) react after Houston was called for a foul against the Indiana Fever during the third quarter of a WNBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in New York. Indiana beat New York 90-76. Photo Credit: Jason DeCrow

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Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer rubbed his forehead with his thumb and index finger often as he sat on the bench looking at the floor.

Cappie Pondexter seemed irritated at times, running downcourt with her arms raised and hands in the air.

Frustration was visible for the Liberty on Sunday.

Instead of increasing its chances of making the playoffs, the Liberty lost a critical game against the Indiana Fever, 90-76, at Madison Square Garden.

"Indiana came here today to win a playoff game and we came to win a basketball game," Laimbeer said. "That can't be that way. We talked about that afterward. It's worrisome. They have to find it within themselves."

Pondexter led the Liberty with 18 points. Tina Charles had 17 points and five assists.

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Tamika Catchings scored 29 points, including 12 in the first quarter, for the Fever. Erlana Larkins added 14 points.

The Liberty had a chance to take another step toward a playoff push in a crowded Eastern Conference. Instead, the team took a step backward.

With the Atlanta Dream already having clinched a playoff berth, the next four teams in the standings -- the Washington Mystics (15-16), the Chicago Sky (14-17), the Fever (14-17) and the Liberty (13-17) -- are in a tight fight for the final three spots.

Facing four games in the regular season's last seven days, the Liberty will play the Fever twice -- including Sunday at the Garden in the finale -- and the Mystics once.

Laimbeer said his team lacked the intensity necessary to win, especially early. Meanwhile, the Fever started the game with a level of urgency usually reserved for the playoffs.

Indiana shot 58.8 percent from the field in the first quarter, hitting 10 of 17 shots, and took a 24-12 lead. By the end of the second quarter, the Liberty's deficit had ballooned to 51-32.

"We're not there yet," Laimbeer said. "We have to experience the intensity of the moment through our entire game. Right now, we are not doing that."

Despite a small surge early in the fourth quarter, the Liberty never got closer than nine points in the second half.

The Liberty shot 54.7 percent from the field but had no answers defensively.

"We have to show a little bit more fortitude, an internal desire of wanting to compete at the highest level," Laimbeer said. "Today, we didn't show that at the start of the game and for a whole half. That hurt us."

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