'Big week' awaits Fever

By Tom Rietmann | May 20, 2010

Tammy Sutton-Brown smiled. Her vigor was back. And her internal body clock, she said, was nearly back on Indianapolis time.

“The four of us were kind of like walking zombies when we first returned last week,” Sutton-Brown said. “You can't fight jet lag.”

But time has corrected the time-zone problem, and now Sutton-Brown and three other Indiana Fever starters who played for four months or more in Turkey are ratcheting up their work here. The Fever, for the first time since training camp opened nearly a month ago, has an opportunity for intensive practice time with a full roster and rested players.

The preparation started in earnest Wednesday with a spirited 2 1/2-hour session after two days off for the four players who just returned from overseas. Practices continue Thursday and Friday before the Fever meets the Chicago Sky in back-to-back games -- in Chicago on Saturday night and in Conseco Fieldhouse on Sunday night.

“A BIG week, this is a big week for us,” Fever forward Tamika Catchings said after Wednesday's practice. “We have to get in here for another great practice Thursday and another on Friday. We have to get back on the winning side and put some things together.”

The Fever is 0-2 after losses last weekend against Washington (72-65) and Atlanta (66-62). Sutton-Brown, Catchings, Ebony Hoffman and Katie Douglas – the four players who returned from Turkey in time for only one practice a week ago – started and averaged nearly 30 minutes each. Not surprisingly, they looked weary and out of sync.

“If I could have a do-over with the past weekend, I would have played our second group much more, particularly in Atlanta,” coach Lin Dunn said. “That's just because they were mentally so much fresher.”

One number jumped out at Dunn in the aftermath. The Fever committed 45 turnovers in the two losses, including 11 in the fourth quarter against Atlanta when Indiana scored only four points. Dunn said the shortage of practice time as a full unit led to more choppiness than she anticipated.

“The turnovers, (it was) the turnovers more than anything,” she said. “It's the decision-making at crunch time, the spacing, the timing, the inconsistency that just goes with (a lack of practice time together). ... It's been eight months since they've run these plays and sets. So I can't expect them to always be at the right place at the right time.”

The Fever shot just .392 from the field in the losses. And after hitting 82 percent of their free throws during last year's Eastern Conference championship season, they made just 17-of-29 on the weekend. That meant their two opponents made more free throws (30-of-40) than the Fever even attempted.

“As bad as it looked sometimes with the kind of dysfunctional play offensively, we still could have won both of those games,” Dunn said. “We did some good things defensively and offensively. We just weren't consistent. It was a struggle.”

To their credit, the Fever didn't violate the sanctity of their No. 1 rule – always play fierce defense. They forced Washington and Atlanta into 45 turnovers. They held the Mystics and Sky to a combined .402 field goal mark.

“It's definitely not our hustle,” Catchings said. “It's crucial mistakes at crucial times. We have to put 40 minutes together offensively and defensively and cut out some turnovers, and we'll be right there.”

Sutton-Brown echoed Catchings' statements. This week, Sutton-Brown said, is all about “getting our timing and chemistry back.”