58 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann | September 23, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Going with only eight healthy players for the second consecutive game, the Indiana Fever still accomplished its goals on Sunday evening.
Most importantly, the Fever ended the regular season on an upbeat and winning note, thumping the visiting Tulsa Shock, 91-58. It marked Indiana's 22nd victory for 2012, tying the franchise seasonal record. It also served as a nice bridge as the club now transitions into WNBA postseason play.
“It gives you momentum going into this Friday,” said Coach Lin Dunn, whose second-seeded Indiana team (22-12) will host No. 3 Atlanta (19-15) in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “It gives the fans momentum. They're excited about the next game.”
They're not the only ones. Indiana's reserves, who played solidly most of the season, will go into the postseason with another injection of confidence. That, too, was something Dunn wanted to see.
With starters Briann January (concussion symptoms), Shavonte Zellous (concussion symptoms) and Katie Douglas (illness) sitting out the end of regular-season play, the bench players received multiple and quality minutes.
Fever guard Erin Phillips played 39 minutes Sunday and led the game with a career-high-tying 21 points after leading her club with 19 in Friday's victory at Washington.
“Usually, this only happens in Europe,” Phillips, smiling, said about her heavy playing time against Tulsa after being on the court for 38 minutes at Washington.
“On a team note,” Phillips said, “we just wanted to get better. We wanted to play every game to win (as the season wound down). We just wanted to go out and play hard and be smart, too. It was fun.”
Jeanette Pohlen got a start against Tulsa and contributed 10 points. Jessica Davenport came off the bench for 18 points. Karima Christmas subbed early and often and wound up with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“I think it was good for the players who haven't been playing as much to get that experience, to get that level of play,” said Pohlen. “You never know what could happen in the playoffs. I think it was good for everybody who came in -- for our confidence and for Lin to get confidence in us, too.”
Tamika Catchings, last season's league MVP and a candidate to win again, played only 22 ½ minutes Sunday. It was Dunn's plan to keep the standout forward at 25 minutes or less.
Even with the extra rest time, Catchings produced an efficient 20 points and 10 rebounds for the 82nd double-double of her career. But she preferred to talk about her team's reserves with the playoffs looming.
“I felt like these last two games, we really stepped it up, especially without having (the three unhealthy starters),” Catchings said. “Going into the playoffs, one thing we know is that we need our bench. We need them to be at their best. This time has really given them confidence.”
Dunn said she expects January, Zellous and Douglas to be back for the playoffs. In their absence, the coach got an eyeful from the subs.
“The bad news is, people are hurt,” Dunn said. “The good news is, you find out a lot of things about some other people. We're just taking advantage of this opportunity to see what other people can do during this time of adversity.”
The game Sunday was close for a quarter, but Indiana changed that with a 23-5 run to end the first half. The Fever held Tulsa to eight, 11 and 15 points in the final three quarters. The Shock, coached by former Indiana assistant Gary Kloppenburg, shot 32.1 percent (18-of-56) from the field while Indiana hit 52.6 percent (30-of-57).
The Fever grabbed 45 rebounds to Tulsa's 32. Indiana's 91 points marked its fourth game this season with 90 or more.
“We didn't shoot the ball well, and (Indiana) executed on offense,” said Kloppenburg, whose rebuilding team finished 9-25 in his first season.