Facebook Twitter

Liberty overtake Rockers in East

Phillips plays big minutes as N.Y. tops Fever

SHARE Liberty overtake Rockers in East

NEW YORK — Tari Phillips had just enough energy to push the New York Liberty to the top of the WNBA's Eastern Conference standings.

The All-Star center had 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Liberty beat the Indiana Fever 72-65 Monday night to move a half-game in front of Cleveland.

With starting forwards Vickie Johnson and Crystal Robinson out with injuries, Phillips played all but two minutes to help New York (13-5) to its third victory in four nights.

"We dealt with a lot of adversity," Liberty coach Richie Adubato said. "Tari really stepped up again. I couldn't take her out of the game. I wanted to give her some a rest, but I couldn't. She can rest tomorrow."

The teams also met Sunday night in Indianapolis, with Phillips hitting two free throws with 4 seconds left and finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds in the Liberty's 58-56 victory.

"When it came down to the wire, we just wanted it more," Phillips said. "It would have been really easy to give in and lose focus. It took focus and extreme concentration to win."

Johnson, who will join Phillips and Liberty guard Teresa Weatherspoon in the Eastern Conference starting lineup next week in the WNBA All-Star game, sat out the second half because of tightness in her right hamstring. Robinson did not return after spraining her right ankle early in the second half.

"It was survival of the fittest," said Weatherspoon, who had 13 points and six assists. "With Vicki and Crystal out, they were much bigger than us. We had to bring people into positions that they are not comfortable playing."

Nadine Malcolm led Indiana with 23 points, and Rita Williams added 16. The Fever (5-11) have lost five of six.

"We're playing much better than our record shows. We're getting there. We just have to stay at it," Fever coach Nell Fortner said.

New York improved to 5-0 against Indiana in the last two seasons. The Liberty are also on a five-game home winning streak.

Indiana played without rookie forward Tamika Catchings, expected to miss the rest of the season because of a right knee injury.