Fever Wins 20th, Clinches No. 2 Seed
|STAR OF THE GAME
In a game which saw the Fever force a franchise-record 28 turnovers, Catchings had six of the club's season-high 17 steals. She added 13 points, seven rebounds and a pair of 3-pointers.
She played 21 minutes and finished with just one field goal, but Larkins contributed seven rebounds as part of the Fever's 42-34 rebounding edge. She finished with six points, four assists and a pair of steals.
“We did what we needed to do to win. Once we found out their starting backcourt was not going to play, we still stayed focused. We are happy to get our 20th win and homecourt [advantage] for the first round of the playoffs. We will now get refocused to play the defending champions on Friday.”
On another 20-win season
“It obviously shows consistency. And when you look at the success we’ve had with the core group we’ve built around, it just shows the focus and how far our team has gone. On another hand, we need to get over the hump. When you’re that consistent, you need to get to the playoffs and win a championship.”
Points in the paint:
Fever 18, Storm 24
Fever 16, Storm 3
Fever 9, Storm 11
Points off turnovers:
Fever 17, Storm 8
Fever 38, Storm 32
Fever 34, Storm 16
By Tom Rietmann | September 12, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Fever's blueprint for achievement continues to work nicely.
The Fever toppled a tired Seattle team, 72-48, on Wednesday night and collected its 20th victory of the season. That makes 20 victories in four consecutive years for Indiana, which also has accomplished the 20-win feat in seven of the last eight seasons, a WNBA first. And Indiana has five regular-season games remaining.
Winning the Eastern Conference playoffs and competing for a league title remain Indiana's goal, but the team also is proud of its steady production over the years.
“There are a lot of teams that aren't as fortunate and aren't in this place we're in consistently every year,” said guard Katie Douglas, who led the Fever (20-9) with 16 points against Seattle. “It's definitely not a fun position not to be a winning team and not to have anything to play for.”
Douglas said she and fellow veterans Tamika Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown make sure the club's younger players appreciate what they have. Catchings, for her part, understands the significance of Indiana's year-in, year-out success.
“Consistency,” said Catchings, who totaled 13 points and seven rebounds. “It just shows the focus and how far our team has gone from the beginning to where we are now.”
For nearly a decade, Indiana has steered clear of sweeping roster changes. Instead, the Fever made small fix-ups when needed, acquiring a solid role player, finding a key reserve or signing a productive free agent. Meanwhile, Fever General Manager Kelly Krauskopf kept building around the team's linchpin player, 2011 league MVP Catchings, as well as standout scorer Douglas.
The plan's success goes on.
“It's an indication of what we value in this franchise,” said Indiana Coach Lin Dunn, whose team clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the semifinal round. “We want to win the Eastern Conference. We want to win 20-plus games. We want to play for a championship. That's who we are.”
The Storm (13-16) played without its starting backcourt of Sue Bird, who was rested, and Tanisha Wright, who had a strained groin. Seattle was coming off a loss in Atlanta one night earlier.
Without Bird and Wright, Seattle's ball-handling suffered. The Storm committed 28 turnovers, which tied the record for most by a Fever opponent.
“I thought we did what we needed to do,” Dunn said. “Once we found out their starting backcourt wasn't going to play tonight, I thought it was really important that we stay focused and not relax.”
Indiana's opponents have committed 51 turnovers in the past two games. Catchings said her team has ramped up its defense, focusing from the opening tip and denying passes whenever possible. Dunn, too, likes what she sees.
“I think it's a combination of things,” Dunn said when asked about the Fever's recent defensive prowess. “I think we're doing a good job of scouting our opponents. I think we're using our bench and being aggressive and getting out in the passing lanes.
“I think there is more of a sense of urgency about defending at a high level as the playoffs approach.”
Indiana outrebounded the visitors, 51-38, which pleased the coach. It was a good night for the Fever to dominate the glass and play sound defense since the home club shot just 33.3 percent (24-of-72) from the field.
“We were ice-cold at times tonight,” said Douglas. “But our defense is our identity. When you're not making shots, you gotta get stops.”
From long range, Indiana showed plenty of marksmanship, hitting 10-of-25 3-pointers. It helped the Fever lead wire to wire, build a comfortable lead and rest its starters in the fourth quarter ahead of a home game on Friday night against Western Conference-leading Minnesota. Everybody on the Fever roster broke into the scoring column.
“We're happy to get the 20th win,” Dunn said. “And we're happy to get home court in the first round. That was something we were really focused on. Tomorrow, we'll get re-focused and we'll play the defending world champions on Friday.”
Postgame Notes: Tonight’s win means the Fever will finish no worse than second place in the Eastern Conference and have clinched home court advantage in the first round of the 2012 WNBA playoffs.
With its 20th win of the season, Indiana is the first franchise in WNBA history to claim seven 20-win seasons in an eight-year span. Only the Fever and Los Angeles Sparks have ever won 20 games in seven different seasons.
Tonight’s win is the Fever’s 12th at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in 2012 and it has won at least 10 home games in 11 consecutive seasons, setting a WNBA record. The previous longest streaks of winning 10 or more home games was 10 seasons in a row by the Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2008) and nine straight seasons by the New York Liberty (1997-2005).
Her first 3-pt FG tonight was Katie Douglas’s 70th of the season and she is just the second player in Fever history to ever hit 70+ in a season. Her 72 leaves her just four short of the franchise record of 76 by Tamika Catchings in 2002. Douglas needs just eight in the last five games to join the Storm’s Katie Smith and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi as the only players in WNBA history to make 80+ 3-pt FG in a season.
Indiana has won six straight games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, tying the fifth longest home winning streak in Fever history.
Tonight’s win gives Indiana a sweep in the season series with Seattle for just the second time ever, and the first time since 2006. The win is Indiana’s fourth straight at home vs. the Storm and it is now 9-3 all-time at home in the series.
With 28, the Storm tied the Fever franchise record for turnovers by an opponent.
Of those 28 Seattle turnovers, 17 were the result of Indiana steals, which is the team’s most in 2012.
Tamika Catchings had a season-high six steals while Karima Christmas had a career-high four thefts.
Having committed just 13 turnovers, the Fever had more steals than turnovers for the second straight game, and the fifth time this season.
10 of Indiana’s 11 players had at least one assists tonight, led by Erlana Larkins’s career-high four.
Seattle’s 48 points tonight are the fewest by an Indiana opponent this season and they are one more than the fewest by any team in the WNBA this season. Phoenix scored 47 points vs. San Antonio, 8/19.
Indiana outrebounded Seattle, 42-34. The Fever’s 17 offensive rebounds and 42 total rebounds are both season-highs.
Erlana Larkins’s team-high tying seven boards included a career-high tying four offensive rebounds.
Tamika Catchings led the Fever with five offensive boards and a total of seven rebounds. That is Catchings’s most offensive rebounds this season.
Lauren Jackson’s game-high 10 rebounds are her most of the season.
The Fever won tonight’s game by a season-high 24 points, despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor—matching its second lowest mark of the season. Indiana’s 24-72 FG (.333) is its lowest mark at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
The Fever hit 10 3-pt FG tonight, its eighth game in double figures this season. With 240 this season, the Fever needs to make 43 more in the last five games to set the WNBA record for 3-pt FG in a single season.
Having collected three rebounds tonight, Tammy Sutton-Brown needs two more for 2,000 in her WNBA career. She will be the 15th player in WNBA history to reach this milestone.