Fever Tops Mercury, 84-75
May 15, 2005 at America West Arena (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Tamika Catchings scored 23 points to lead the Fever to an 84-75 WNBA preseason win over the Phoenix Mercury, and it was Catchings who provided most of Indiana's late free throws. Catchings was perfect from the line, hitting 11-of-11 all in the second half, and scoring 18 points overall after intermission.
Indiana (3-0) completed an unbeaten preseason despite a 34-point performance by the Mercury's Anna DeForge. Though the Fever maintained a double-digit lead through most of the game, it was DeForge's array of jumpers and free throws that helped bring the Mercury (1-2) within a pair, 56-54, with 10:43 to play. DeForge shot 10-of-20 overall and 10-of-10 at the charity stripe. She made four 3-pointers while adding four assists and two steals.
It was the preseason finale for both teams, meeting for the second time in five days. Indiana, which downed the Mercury 84-59 in Indianapolis on May 10, hosts Phoenix in a regular season encounter on May 24 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Like the game in Indy five days prior, Fever reserves staked Indiana to a substantial lead midway through the first period. After two quick fouls sent Fever point guard Tully Bevilaqua to the bench, rookie guards Yolanda Paige and Tan White helped spark an 11-0 run which broke a 13-13 deadlock. In all, 10 Fever players reached the scoring column during the first half alone, and the Fever lead remained in double figures until the midway point of the final period.
The Fever led by as many as 15 points in the first half, and led 47-29 on Catchings' 3-pointer with 18:28 remaining in the contest. Bevilaqua picked up a second pair of quick fouls shortly thereafter, though, and with the veteran point guard on the bench, Phoenix proceeded to outscore the Fever 25-15 in the second half's first 10 minutes. What was once a near-blowout had become a one-possession game.
In the end, Indiana's march to the line proved too much for the Mercury as the Fever finished 26-of-28 at the foul line overall - its third straight game with at least 25 free throws. By contrast, Indiana averaged just 13.2 free throws in 2004. Similarly, Indiana posted its third consecutive game with 80 points or more, compared to its 2004 average of 64.6.
The Mercury stayed within 63-60 on a pair of free throws by former Fever guard Rita Williams, but four straight charity tosses by Catchings pushed the Fever lead to seven, with 6:00 to play. DeForge's final 3-point basket made it 69-65 with 4:33 to go, but a Catchings layup and two Ebony Hoffman free throws gave the Fever an eight-point cushion with 2:38 remaining. The Mercury twice got within six in the final minutes, but the parade of free throws sealed Indiana's win.
Hoffman added 11 points and four steals, and Kelly Miller contributed 10 points. Kelly Schumacher paced the Fever with six rebounds. DeForge was the only double-figure scorer for the Mercury. Diana Taurasi, plagued by foul trouble, managed six points and six assists. Rookie forward Angelina Williams had seven points and six boards for the Mercury.