It was the Indiana Fever’s finest season. It was a season that began with few expectations, yet ended within minutes of the WNBA Finals. It was a season with record wins and an unprecedented finish. It was the finest of six seasons for a growing franchise, and for the city and fans still learning to embrace the WNBA.
Guided by second-year coach Brian Winters, the 2005 Fever exceeded any preseason expectations set forth by fans, media and possibly even themselves. Let’s face it, the Fever had only once before qualified for the WNBA Playoffs. Never had the Fever won more than 16 games. And never had Indiana even had a winning season.
Led by All-Star Tamika Catchings and her new gritty, scrappy point guard Tully Bevilaqua, the 2005 Fever was the finest the franchise has ever seen – yet!
The Fever capped its season with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in the franchise’s six-year history. Though swept in two games by the Connecticut Sun, the Fever was but a play or two in each game from turning the series into its own trip to the WNBA Finals:
- In Game 1 of the series, Indiana had the ball while trailing by three with a minute to play. A costly turnover, though, followed by the Sun’s desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, raised the deficit to six with just 30 seconds to play.
- In Game 2 with virtually the same situation, Catchings’ 3-pointer with 18 seconds in regulation sent the game to overtime. Catchings fouled out early in the OT, however, and the Fever couldn’t hang on.
So on Sept. 10, at Connecticut’s Mohegun Sun Arena, the season would close for the Fever – but not without raising expectations and realizing the foundation that had been built for seasons to come.
The Fever led the WNBA in steals and boasted the league’s second-ranked defensive unit, all while setting a franchise record with 21 regular season wins. Indiana (21-13 regular season, 2-2 playoffs) was 14-3 at home during the regular season to set another franchise mark, and match the Sun with the best home mark in the East. Indiana’s seven road wins were also a franchise-high.
While defense and rebounding became the Fever's trademark, another solid characteristic was the play of its bench. Indiana's reserves routinely outscored opponent bench players. Case in point - nine different Fever players led the team in scoring at some point.
As Connecticut posted the league’s best record and coasted to the Eastern Conference’s top seed, the Fever maintained its second-place standing virtually the entire season, and clinched its own playoff spot with two weeks left in the regular season. In a rematch of its only previous playoff bid, in 2002 vs. New York, the Fever dispatched the Liberty in a two-game sweep to setup its dramatic trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The sweep of the Liberty was but one among dozens of highlights during the 2005 season. Here are just the first dozen:
- Veteran center Natalie Williams announced that she would retire at the close of the 2005 season, and fittingly capped her career with a double-double in her final game – combining 11 rebounds with a season-high 17 points in the loss to the Sun.
Now, they are fond memories. Memories of the Fever’s finest season – yet!