70 at Minnesota
By Tom Rietmann
INDIANAPOLIS -- A clunky shooting night. Some lopsided rebounding numbers. A talented, high-intensity opponent.
Added all together Friday night, it meant the Indiana Fever suffered an 80-70 loss to the Minnesota Lynx at Conseco Fieldhouse. It made for a stunning ending to the Fever's seven-game winning streak. The defeat sent Indiana on the road for games Sunday at Connecticut and Tuesday at Atlanta with a 10-4 record and hopes of relocating their momentum.
“Now we have to get regrouped,” coach Lin Dunn said. “The streak's over. We can start over. You learn from this game, you flush it and you move on.”
Minnesota, one of the WNBA Western Conference's strongest teams at 8-4, arrived in Indy on a mission. The Fever captured a three-point win at Minnesota on June 26. As Dunn suggested, the Lynx wanted payback.
Minnesota's defense turned up the heat early and kept it on, holding Indiana to 39.3 percent shooting (24-of-61). The Fever came in as the WNBA's second-best 3-point team and left the game with a 28 percent mark (7-of-25) from the arc.
Credit the Lynx.
“They just came out with such an aggressiveness and assertiveness that I feel like we were kind of on our heels all night,” said Fever guard Katie Douglas, who totaled 10 points but missed four of five 3-pointers. “I don't think we ever recovered and were comfortable.”
Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 22 points on 6-of-13 accuracy, but she lamented three missed layups early in the game.
“I can't afford to miss layups for this team,” she said. “When we start with missed layups, it kind of goes all the way down through the team.”
Indiana had two other players in double-figure scoring: Jessica Davenport with 13 and Erin Phillips with 11. However, the Fever hit just 26.7 percent (4-of-15) of their third-quarter shots and 29.4 percent (5-of-17) in the fourth. The game was tied at 41-all at halftime before Minnesota took command.
Rebekkah Brunson, who led Minnesota with 20 points, and Lindsay Whalen, who had 16, put the game away for the Lynx. That duo combined to score the visitors' final 17 points. Indiana trailed by only two (59-57) with 8 minutes left, but saw its deficit expand to 10 (74-64) seven minutes later.
“I thought Minnesota did a super job defensively,” Dunn said. “I thought they were as aggressive and physical as any team we've seen this year. … They just looked a step quicker going to the boards, cutting, everything. You've got to give them credit. They disrupted what we were trying to do. They fought us for everything.”
And it wore the Fever down.
“At times,” Catchings said, “we just got really stagnant. It was like we started settling for outside shots instead of attacking the basket.”
Minnesota outrebounded the Fever 38-26, including a 15-9 edge in offensive boards.
“Offensive rebounds,” Catchings said. “We've been talking about this for a long time. They killed us. They have great rebounders and (got) second shots, third shots, fourth shots. We definitely have to clean that up.”
Rookie star Maya Moore totaled 18 points and seven rebounds for the Lynx. Seimone Augustus chipped in 12 points. The Lynx shot 49.3 percent (33-of-67) from the field.
Minnesota was coming off a 112-105 home loss to Phoenix and seemed to want atonement.
“They're loaded,” Dunn said about the Lynx. “And they're young and athletic and well-coached. … This is the team that I think will win the West, them and Phoenix. They had a little vinegar in them from (the loss to Phoenix).”