86 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann | August 27, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Fever missed an opportunity Saturday night to clinch its seventh consecutive berth in the WNBA Playoffs. The Fever couldn't close the deal.
“In my mind, we just let a game slip away from us,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said after the Atlanta Dream captured an 86-80 victory at Conseco Fieldhouse. “We had that ball game. We should have won at home. ...We made some errors and it cost us a ball game against a good team.”
The Fever held a 76-73 lead with 3 minutes left, but the Dream outscored the home team 13-4 down the stretch. With 56 seconds remaining, the game was tied at 80, but Indiana missed its last four shots.
However, it might be more accurate to say the Fever lost this one in first half. Dunn and her players thought so.
“I thought we played a very great second half, but I was very disappointed in our energy, effort and intensity in the first half,” Dunn said.
The Fever shot 25 percent in the second quarter (4-of-16) and 29.7 percent (11-of-37) in the half. Atlanta, with Angel McCoughtry scoring 16 in the first 20 minutes, shot 53.1 percent (17-of-32) in the half and opened a 42-32 halftime lead.
“When you dig yourself into a hole that big, especially against a great team like that, it's hard,” said forward Tamika Catchings, who led the Fever with a game-high 22 points. “(Coming back) takes a lot of energy out of you.”
Indiana's magic number for clinching a playoff spot remains one. The Fever, still in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 19-9 record, could gain the playoff spot Sunday if Chicago loses to New York.
Indiana prefers to finish with a strong push. The team plays its final six regular-season games over a 13-day stretch, starting with Tuesday's trip to Atlanta. Indiana also closes the season with a home game against Atlanta (15-13), which holds a 2-0 lead in the 2011 series. And it's possible Indiana, as the potential top seed, and Atlanta, as the fourth seed, will meet in a first-round playoff series.
“I think (playing Atlanta is) a great challenge for us,” said Fever guard Katie Douglas, who collected 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. “I think as competitors, anybody in here would like to play them again. We're going to look at the mistakes we made and obviously try to clean them up and be ready.”
“On Tuesday,” Indiana point guard Erin Phillips said, “we need to do what they did here. Get a great start and be physical.”
Indiana didn't match Atlanta's toughness, especially in the first half.
“I thought our defense was soft in the first half,” Dunn said. “I thought they got whatever they wanted.”
McCoughtry carried the Dream early and Lindsay Harding took over in the second half. Harding played all 40 minutes, scoring 13 points after halftime, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we did a very good job on McCoughtry,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, I think the key was Lindsay Harding. In crunch time, how many buckets did she hit at the end of the shot clock? That may have been the difference in the ball game, her ability to hit the big bucket under duress.”