Odd Days of July
The Indiana Fever emerges from the All-Star Break as the second place team in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference and prepares for a 19-day stretch in which the team will play nine games. After playing only three games in the past 24 days, the Fever will play nearly every other day for the rest of July, beginning on Wednesday.
Head Coach Brian Winters doesn’t mind the change of pace. “I didn’t like having such a long break. When you have an eight or nine day lay-off, that’s never good.” He added, “I’m actually looking forward to playing every other day. Then you get into a rhythm with your team.”
Eight games in the upcoming stretch are scheduled for odd-numbered days, starting with the Fever’s afternoon Camp Day on July 13 against Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut. Seven of those games are against conference rivals. Thus far, the Fever stands at 5-1 in conference play, the best in the East. The team will play five games on the road and four at home, where Indiana has won 6 of 8 this year.
The July slate: 7/13 vs. Connecticut; 7/15 vs. Detroit; 7/17 at Detroit; 7/19 at Minnesota; 7/21 vs. San Antonio; 7/23 at Charlotte; 7/26 at Connecticut; 7/29 vs. Washington; 7/31 at New York. The Fever will literally travel or play every day for the rest of the month, with but three exceptions - July 14, July 25 and July 28.
The Fever began the season red hot and got off to a franchise best 7-3 record after winning in Charlotte for the first time in team history on June 16. Indiana was nipping at the heels of front-running Sun, and the rest of the conference was struggling to keep pace.
Winters attributes the early success of the team to chemistry and a fast-paced attack, aided by two new additions to the 2005 roster: veteran point guard Tully Bevilaqua and rookie shooting guard Tan White. Bevilaqua is second in the league in three-point percentage at 51 percent and provides solid defense and leadership on the court. She also says she enjoys the added responsibility of providing leadership to younger players. White leads all WNBA rookies in scoring with 11.1 points per game and provides an offensive spark off the bench.
The Fever’s only All-Star, Tamika Catchings, is currently the only player in the WNBA to be among the top 15 in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. Although her field goal percentage and scoring are down from previous years, Catchings is on pace to set a career high for assists in a season and currently leads the league in steals per game. At the All-Star Game on Saturday, Catchings scored 18 points with a team-high six rebounds and a team-best two steals for the East in a losing effort.
In the past month, the conference race has tightened up. The Washington Mystics (8-8) and New York Liberty (7-7) have surged to .500, and both stand one game behind Indiana. The Detroit Shock (7-7) has struggled after a fast start and is also one game in back of the Fever. While Connecticut (12-3) continues to play well, the Charlotte Sting has fallen to 3-12. The stage is certainly set for a heated playoff race, and the Fever is looking to get a good start against Connecticut at home on Wednesday. A win would tighten the race for the lead in the East.
Indiana is not unaccustomed to such a situation. Last season, the Fever finished in last place in the conference, but was only three games out of first place – just two games after sharing a piece of the lead, in fact. Had the Fever won its last two games of the season, Indiana could have claimed the conference crown.
By playing well on the upcoming “Odd Days of July,” the Fever could make significant strides in sealing an early playoff spot while making its bid to not only begin with the best start in franchise history, but add to it the best finish in franchise history.