Both the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty have played poorly recently, leaving their potential playoff fates in precarious positions.
Friday night's meeting will result in either the visiting Fever increasing their edge over the Liberty or seeing that lead shrink to the narrowest of margins.
The clubs have each lost four of five, though Indiana (12-15) owns a 1 1/2-game lead over New York for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
A victory for the Liberty (11-17) would not only tie them with the Fever in the win column, but it would give New York the tiebreaker should the teams finish even in the standings. The Liberty took two of three earlier meetings, including a 75-68 overtime win at home on June 5 and a 77-72 victory at Indiana on July 23.
The Fever won 74-53 at New York on July 13 but enter this matchup having lost four straight on the road, including an 84-77 defeat at Minnesota on Saturday. They surrendered a career-high 35 points to Maya Moore while letting the Lynx shoot a season-high 57.8 percent from the floor.
Indiana lost despite a 10-of-20 3-point performance as Tamika Catchings and Shavonte Zellous combined to go 6 for 8. The Fever rank second in the WNBA with a 34.7 percentage from beyond the arc.
"At the end of the day I thought we put ourselves in a position to maybe steal a game, but we had a missed layup here or a stupid turnover there," said coach Lin Dunn, whose team was in a 72-all tie midway through the fourth.
While Indiana has had problems on the road, the Liberty have struggled at home, losing six of seven there following a 73-47 defeat to Minnesota on Tuesday. They missed their first 10 shots and hit 25.0 percent for the game.
"We laid an egg tonight but at the same time we come up to a bunch of basketball games now where if you look at a piece of paper we can win every one," coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We have to want it bad enough to compete for 40 minutes. We'll take our chances when we compete for an entire game."
Cappie Pondexter scored a team-high 13 points and is 24 shy of becoming the league's 12th player to reach the 5,000-point plateau.
Fever guard Erin Phillips (6.9 ppg), who missed Saturday's contest due to a right knee injury, is listed as day-to-day.
Indiana owns a 30-20 advantage in the all-time series, including 29-12 since 2003.
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