INDIANAPOLIS – Katie Douglas had been sidelined 30 games this season by a bulging disc in her lower back.
So it felt good when the Indiana Fever forward got to test her back in a fall early in Friday night's game against the New York Liberty.
"I was like, finally," Douglas said after the Fever rallied for a 66-63 victory. "It's not like you can practice falling. It was good, I popped right up. I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad it happened, because I needed to know."
Fever coach Lin Dunn acknowledged it's going to take some time for Douglas to get comfortable.
"But I thought she played well," Dunn said. "I expect her instead of shooting 3 for 13, I expect her to shoot about 9 for 13."
Douglas played 29 minutes in her return to the defending champion's lineup, but her time came in four- and five-minute spurts.
The adjustment to having Douglas back in the lineup may have been a factor in Indiana's cold-shooting start. The Fever were 7 of 23 from the field in the first quarter and 12 of 38 in the first half, allowing the Liberty (11-22) to take a 38-32 lead at the break.
But New York couldn't put the Fever away, and Erlana Larkins put Indiana in front for good when she hit two free throws for a 61-60 lead with 2:49 to play. It was the 17th lead change of the game.
Karima Christmas added a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 64-60. But New York's DeLisha Milton-Jones answered with a 3 of her own, then rebounded Douglas' miss to give the Liberty a chance.
The Fever forced a shot clock violation, though, and Tamika Catchings hit two free throws for the final margin.
"I thought it was kind of a gut check time. That's a typical Fever defensive extra-effort situation," Dunn said of forcing the shot clock violation. "I think in crunch time they just executed well at both ends of the floor."
Catchings had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the 89th double-double of her career. Briann January added 13 points and Douglas scored 11 as the Fever finished 23 of 69 from the field.
"Obviously, there's going to be some timing, some rhythm for me," Douglas said. "I'm just happy that I was able to get out there and compete."
Dunn and Douglas both said she'll get more playing time in Sunday's regular-season finale at Connecticut.
Milton-Jones led New York with 18 points. Toni Young scored 10 for the Liberty, who took advantage of their advantage in the post to attempt 13 free throws in the first half, making 11.
"We did OK tonight," New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We played together as a unit."
The Fever are tied with the Washington Mystics (16-17) for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The third seed would play No. 2 Atlanta in the playoffs, while the fourth seed gets No. 1 Chicago. The Fever are 3-1 this season against the Sky.