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Liberty learning from mistakes in Game 2 collapse

Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, center, passes the

Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, center, passes the ball past New York Liberty forward Swin Cash, left, and center Tina Charles during the first half of Game 1 of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Liberty flew back from Indianapolis and spent Monday morning watching video of the loss to Indiana, committing its missteps to memory.

The Liberty saw the way the offense sputtered in the second half against the Fever and saw half-hearted play. It was, Kiah Stokes said, like watching the game in slow motion.

Now the Liberty will play a deciding Game 3 on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, hoping to advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002.

The Eastern Conference finals probably should be over -- with the Liberty advancing. The Liberty led by 18 in the second quarter Sunday before watching Tamika Catchings "willing her team to victory" in an inspired second half, Tina Charles said.

On Monday afternoon at the media portion of practice, the Liberty was grim and businesslike as Bill Laimbeer coached the team through plays meant to neutralize a Fever squad that has been troublesome all year. The Fever beat the Liberty four times in five games in the regular season.

"We walked through things instead of running through things, and that was one of the keys of our downfall," Laimbeer said. "We played not to win, we played to maintain. That can't happen in playoff games."

Charles matched her playoff high with 25 points, but the Liberty shot only 3-for-14 in the fourth quarter and the bench, which averaged 37.7 points in the previous three games, had only 10.

"It looked lazy, and slow motion at times," said Stokes, a rookie who came off the bench for 11 rebounds but didn't score after contributing a career-high 21 points in Game 1. "There were a lot of things that were just wrong that we didn't do the first half . . . You can't be mad and want to punch everyone on the court, but you've got to use that to kind of focus your energy and get pumped up for the game. You saw all the things you did wrong and you have to make sure that when you go in, you focus to do those right."

Home-court advantage in Game 3 will help, Charles said. The Garden crowd hasn't disappointed so far. And while a series-deciding game should provide more than enough motivation, there's also the sting of Sunday's collapse.

"You use it as a learning tool," Tanisha Wright said. "We saw what we needed to do better and hopefully, when we go into Game 3, we will do it better."

Laimbeer, clearly irate Sunday when he kicked the scorer's table in the fourth quarter, was in better spirits Monday.

He's maintained throughout this run that a championship would be great but that he is genuinely happy -- and a little surprised -- that a team that struggled so much last year could get this far this year.

That said, Laimbeer didn't win three WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock for lack of competitiveness.

"You're always going to be a little down because you missed an opportunity, but at the same time, the sun came up, so it's a new day," he said. "We'll get through what we have to get through today and prepare for a war tomorrow."

New York Sports