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In brief: Tamika Catchings carries Indiana Fever to WNBA Finals

Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings finished with 14 points. (Associated Press)
Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings finished with 14 points. (Associated Press)

WNBA: Tamika Catchings scored 14 points to lead visiting Indiana to a 66-51 victory over the New York Liberty on Tuesday night in the decisive Game 3, advancing the Fever to the WNBA Finals.

They will face the Lynx in the championship that begins Sunday in Minnesota.

“This is awesome,” Catchings said. “If you had asked me before the season if I’d be sitting right here, we’re going to try, I don’t know. To be sitting here means a lot for the organization, for my team.”

Catchings, who announced she’s retiring at the end of next season, has willed her team to victories.

Indiana is back in the finals for the first time since 2012 – the only season the Fever won the championship.

The Fever improved to 8-2 in elimination games in the past four seasons and Catchings is a huge reason why. She averaged 21.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in the first nine of those games.

Catchings and Indiana looked ready to cruise to the finals, building an 18-point lead in the third quarter before New York tried to rally. Marissa Coleman hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter to help the Fever build their huge lead after Indiana held a 33-22 halftime advantage.

New York wasn’t done. Epiphanny Prince, who was scoreless in the first half, hit a 3-pointer to start a 12-3 run to close the period and bring New York within nine heading to the fourth. The Liberty hit three 3s during that spurt, capped by Candice Wiggins’ shot that made it 49-40 with 28 seconds left in the quarter and brought the loud crowd to its feet.

As he’s done at so many Knicks games, Spike Lee was leading the charge from the sideline, trying to spur the Liberty to a monumental rally. The Liberty kept it going to start the fourth as Wiggins scored the first five points of the period to get New York within 49-45.

But Catchings refused to let her team lose. She made two free throws that started a 10-0 run and restored the double-digit lead, essentially sealing the victory for the Fever.

New York was trying to make its first appearance in the WNBA Finals since 2002. The Liberty have been to the championship four times and lost each one.

Tina Charles finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead New York, which had the best record in franchise history and was the top seed in the Eastern Conference before falling short in the playoffs. Wiggins led New York with 15 points.

Coleman scored 15 points for Indiana, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts.

Chelsea, Arsenal struggles continue

Soccer: Jose Mourinho’s season took another turn for the worse on a night of surprises in the Champions League.

With Chelsea floundering in 14th in the English Premier League, a win at Porto would have been a much-needed boost, but instead Mourinho watched a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the club he led to the Champions League title in 2004.

Mourinho said his team paid the price for “two ridiculous mistakes” in defense as Yacine Brahimi and Maicon’s goals powered the Portuguese team to victory.

Barcelona pulled off a dramatic escape to avoid defeat against Bayer Leverkusen, scoring in the 80th and 82nd minutes to turn defeat into a 2-1 home victory.

Barcelona’s dramatic comeback was achieved without Lionel Messi, who is set to miss two months with a torn knee ligament, and the team’s injury worries grew when Andres Iniesta was forced off in the second half with an apparent thigh injury.

Sergi Roberto poked in the rebound of a strike by fellow substitute Munir El Haddadi to equalize in the 80th, and two minutes later El Haddadi passed for Luis Suarez to drive in the winner, sending Barcelona top of the group.

“We are the European champions and we knew that in the second half we had to show it,” Suarez said.

A goalkeeping blunder by David Ospina helped Olympiakos beat Arsenal 3-2, leaving the Gunners in real danger of its first group-stage exit in 16 years.

Ospina fumbled a corner over his line to give the visitors a 2-1 first-half lead, and substitute Alfred Finnbogason scored the winner in the 66th minute – almost immediately after Alexis Sanchez had drawn Arsenal level.

Arsenal, which has advanced past the first group stage every year since 2001, has now lost both its opening games – and still has two meetings with Group F leader Bayern Munich to come. Bayern beat Dinamo Zagreb 5-0 to take a tight grip on first place in the group.

“It leaves us in a bad position, but we are still in it,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We have to make a result in our next game against Bayern at home. We are not out of it.”

Swiss agree to extradite Costa Rican : Switzerland’s justice ministry granted an American request to extradite former Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li in the FIFA bribery case.

Li was ousted from the FIFA executive committee two days before he could take up his seat after being arrested on May 27 in a dawn raid on a Zurich hotel along with six other football officials.

Li can appeal against the extradition order at Switzerland’s federal criminal court within 30 days.

Costa Rica authorities have also opened an investigation against Li, who is accused by the U.S. of asking for a six-figure payment from marketing agency Traffic USA as part of an agreement for rights for Costa Rica’s home qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. That deal was worth $2.55 million to $3 million, depending on the team’s success, the U.S. indictment alleges.

• Swiss would raid Platini’s office: UEFA president Michel Platini is being treated as “between a witness and an accused person” and the Swiss authorities would raid his office if necessary to discover the “real truth,” the attorney general said.

Platini was questioned Friday about a 2011 payment from FIFA which led to a criminal case being opened against Blatter, who was quizzed as a suspect.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber wouldn’t be drawn about what might follow for Platini, or the specifics of the case against Blatter for “tactical reasons.”

But asked if he would be prepared to raid Platini’s UEFA office, Lauber responded: “I will do anything, if I can do something, to clear up what’s the real truth and if I have enough elements to go there I could not exclude that I also have to go there.”

• Rossi accepts salary cut at Fiorentina: Still working his way back to top form after a series of knee injuries, Giuseppe Rossi has accepted a salary cut at Fiorentina.

The reduction reportedly cuts Rossi’s yearly pay from 2.4 million euros ($2.7 million) to 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million), although he could make up lost money with performance bonuses.


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