After numerous injuries led to a disastrous start, the defending champion Indiana Fever are hoping a successful homestand helped them begin to turn the corner.
They just hope it’s not too late to make their ninth consecutive trip to the postseason.
The Fever look for their fourth win in five games Saturday night when they visit a New York Liberty team that has lost five of seven.
Following a 1-7 start, Indiana (4-8) opened its four-game homestand with three wins before Thursday’s 69-62 loss to Western Conference-best Minnesota.
Despite falling to the Lynx, the Fever had a reason to be optimistic when their starting five from the 2012 finals - Erin Phillips, Briann January, Shavonte Zellous, Tamika Catchings and Erlana Larkins - played together for the first time this season.
Phillips had eight points off the bench in her season debut after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus on May 22.
The Fever, though, continue to play without star guard Katie Douglas, who missed her 10th consecutive game with a bulging disk in her back. Eight different Indiana players have missed time due to injuries.
Catchings, who leads the Fever with 17.8 points per game, looks to bounce back after finishing with a season-low nine points on 2-of-10 shooting against the Lynx.
She had 21 points and eight boards in Indiana’s 75-68 overtime loss at New York (6-7) on June 5. The Fever led by 11 late in the third quarter of that contest before missing 13 of 16 field-goal attempts in the fourth.
New York’s Essence Carson had a team-high 21 points in that meeting, but she’s out for the season with a knee injury.
Indiana still will have to contend with Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty’s leader with 18.5 points per game, in her new position. Pondexter started at point guard for the first time in 2013 Tuesday at Seattle, and though she only finished with 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the 66-57 win, coach Bill Laimbeer was encouraged.
“I think in the long term, whether the long term is this year or for sure next year, I think that is her position,” Laimbeer said. “I think she learned in the last few games, in games that were out of control. She did very well in her first time.”
Laimbeer hopes the move can help the team reduce its league-worst 18.5 turnovers per game. Pondexter had a team-high four Tuesday and now faces the Fever, among the WNBA leaders in forcing miscues at 17.0 per game.
The Liberty committed 18 turnovers against the Storm, but forced 19 and held Seattle to 33.9 percent shooting as they ended a season-worst three-game losing streak.
They’ll try to put together a similar defensive effort against the Fever, who rank near the bottom of the WNBA with 68.7 points per game.