Catchings, Douglas Propel Fever to Victory

By Tom Rietmann | September 13, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- On “Fan Appreciation Night” at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas and the Indiana Fever rewarded their followers with a game to remember.

Catchings recorded her seventh double-double of the season and 89th of her career, collecting 23 points and 10 rebounds in a rousing 66-63 victory Friday night over the New York Liberty. A crowd of 10,571, Indiana's second-largest of the season, enjoyed every minute of the tight game.

Some of the loudest cheers were reserved for Douglas, who played her first game since May 31 after suffering a back injury. Douglas buried her first field goal attempt, a 3-pointer with 7:27 left in the first quarter, and totaled 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Douglas said she played without pain. She saw 29 minutes of action, turned in some sound defense and, in many ways, looked like she had never been out. In preparation for the postseason, she is expected to see even more time in Sunday's regular-season finale at Connecticut.

For Douglas, the extended shelf time after starting the first two games of 2013 was a stressful experience. She also was forced out of last season's WNBA Finals, in which the Fever captured its first league championship, with an ankle injury that later required surgery.

“It was definitely one of the toughest and trying times of my career,” said Douglas, 34. “It was a long process, but I'm happy to finally put that behind me and be back on the court.”

A hard fall on the court is what Douglas took when she was tripped at the 6:40 mark of the first quarter. She gathered herself and popped right up.

“I'm glad it happened,” said Douglas, averaging 15.3 points in her three games this season. “I needed to know how it's going to feel. With the playoffs coming, things are going to be down to the grind out, so it was good. I was able to withstand that and get back up.”

The WNBA postseason begins next week. The Fever lifted its record to 16-17, staying tied with Washington for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

New York (11-22), which has lost five straight games, took the Fever to the wire. A 3-pointer by Karima Christmas with 1:30 left pushed Indiana ahead by four, 64-60. A trey by New York's DeLisha Milton-Jones, who led her team with 18 points, then cut the edge to one.

That's when Indiana ratcheted up its defense, forcing the visitors into a shot-clock violation with 29.5 seconds remaining.

“I thought it was kind of a gut-check time,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. “That's a typical Fever defensive, extra-effort situation, where we have to get a stop (and) let's get this done.”

Catchings liked her team's effort on that defensive possession.

“We played really well together,” said Catchings, who raised her team-leading scoring average to 17.7 points with 8-of-16 shooting. “That shot-clock violation ... the (defensive) rotation was just real good. It's kind of fun for me being a part of it.”

Catchings also liked the effort as the Fever forced the Liberty into 20 turnovers leading to 23 points. The Fever began double-teaming New York's post players, effectively slowing one of the Liberty's main scoring avenues.

Offensively, Indiana amped up its full-court attack after halftime -- perhaps a sign of things to come in the postseason.

“We did want to attack more,” Dunn said. “We thought we had kind of let them off the hook by slowing the game down too much and not making their 'bigs' run.”

At the end, Catchings calmly sank a pair of free throws with 11.6 seconds left to put her team up by three. Toni Young missed a 3-point attempt for New York in the final few seconds.

“I thought in crunch time in the last two minutes, we just executed well on both sides of the court,” Dunn said.