NEWARK -- Bill Laimbeer said 70 points was the "magic" number the Liberty needed to reach to have a chance against the Indiana Fever Friday night.
The numbers back up that assessment. The Liberty entered the game at 2-13 when it scored fewer than 70 points.
Make that 2-14. The Liberty couldn't overcome another sluggish start in a 73-67 loss to the Fever at the Prudential Center.
It was the sixth time in the last eight games that the Liberty failed to reach 70 points, including a 73-47 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. The Liberty is 2-6 in those games.
Making the loss even more frustrating was that the Liberty (11-18) was in desperate need of a win, having entered the contest trailing the Fever (13-15) by 11/2 games for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Liberty now trails by 21/2 with five games to play.
Laimbeer stressed the importance of the Fever matchup in his pregame news conference. "The schedule says no, but reality says probably so," Laimbeer said when asked if it was a make-or-break game.
The Liberty faces Atlanta, Washington and Indiana -- three of the four teams it trails in the conference playoff race -- one more time, but the loss to the Fever might have rendered those games moot.
The Liberty got off to a horrid start, facing deficits of 14-0 and 21-4 in the first quarter. The team didn't get its first bucket -- a jumper by Cappie Pondexter -- until 5:31 was left in the first quarter.
But the Liberty fought back and led 54-52 after three quarters.
Rookie forward Kelsey Bone led the charge, scoring 11 of her team-high 13 points during a 21-14 third quarter.
Plenette Pierson had 10 points and Alex Montgomery added nine for the Liberty. Pondexter scored seven points, shooting 1-for-12.
The Fever stayed poised in the fourth, however, as it began the period on a 10-0 run and took a 62-54 lead with 7:01 to go on a layup by former Liberty forward Erlana Larkins.
Tamika Catchings had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Shavonte Zellous chipped in 21 points for the Fever.