WNBA

Fever 74, Liberty 53

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP)

Indiana coach Lin Dunn wasn't worried when her team was stuck in heavy traffic an hour before their game against New York.

Not with a veteran group that has been playing very well lately after a miserable start to the season.

After a back-and-forth first half, the Fever blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Liberty 31-6 en route to the 74-53 victory Saturday night.

''I realized now we've been getting to the game too early,'' Dunn joked. ''The tunnel was blocked and we didn't ever panic. I know their routine.''

The win was the fourth in the past five games for the Fever, who climbed within a half-game of New York for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana, which dropped seven of its first eight games, forced New York into 22 turnovers and only had seven.

''A lot of the turnovers we turned into points,'' Dunn said. ''We did a good job with our guards hitting some shots outside and established Erlana (Larkins) inside in the first half.''

Larkins led a balanced offense, scoring a season-high 15 points. Shavonte Zellous added 13 and Erin Phillips had 12 for the Fever, who lost seven of their first eight games this year.

Phillips was playing her second game since missing the first 11 while recovering from a torn right meniscus.

''Having Erin around definitely has helped us,'' said Tamika Catchings, who added 10 points and seven rebounds for Indiana. ''When we kick it outside she'll hit the shot.''

Indiana (5-8) led by three at the half before blowing the game open in the third. After the Liberty scored the first basket of the second half, Indiana had 11 straight points, including five by Larkins.

Kara Braxton scored with 5:10 left in third to make it 48-38, but that was the Liberty's last basket of the period.

The Fever then got hot from behind the arc. They hit five 3-pointers, including a four-point play by Phillips that made it 63-40.

''We were passing the ball really well and everyone was getting involved,'' said Larkins, who spent two years playing with the Liberty before getting cut in 2010. The Fever picked her up last season and she was instrumental in helping Indiana win the WNBA championship.

Plenette Pierson scored 12 points to lead the Liberty, who couldn't get within 20 in the fourth quarter.

''It's the same bugaboo we have every game, turnovers got us in a snit,'' Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ''I warned our players earlier in the season that it would be difficult for us to score this year.''

It's the second time on the four-game homestand that the Liberty have been blown out. They lost to Chicago by 29 points last Sunday.

''We're not that good,'' Laimbeer said. ''We have to play so hard and be so efficient to be able to just get a win.''

The Liberty will close out the four-game homestand against Chicago on Thursday morning.

It was a back-and-forth first half with 11 lead changes and 10 ties. Neither team went ahead by more than three points with Indiana closing the half on a 6-0 run, including the final four by Zellous, whose layup just before the halftime buzzer made it 37-34. That burst was a prelude to the third quarter.

Indiana had a scary moment with just under 2 minutes left in the half. Karima Christmas got hit in the face during a scramble for a loose ball and laid on the court for a few moments before walking slowly off. She returned in the second half.

It was a relief for Indiana, which has been decimated by injuries this season, having players miss a combined 51 1/2 games.

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Follow Doug on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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