Chris Denari’s Blog

October 5, 2009
As you read this...Iíll be somewhere in the air beginning the 17-hour trip to Taiwan and China for a pair of Indiana Pacers games with the Denver Nuggets. Iíll have the call on Fox Sports Indiana Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. From Taipei and Saturday night at midnight from Beijing. But while Iím half the world away this week, Iíll be thinking about the Fever and their quest for their first WNBA title.

The Game 3 clinching win against Detroit was special back on September 26th, but Sundayís win over Phoenix seemed even better. Both games drew sellout crowds of 18, 165, but Sunday was special because the environment was something we had never witnessed for Fever basketball. The crowd shouting defense late in the game gave me chills as I called the final few minutes, and Indianaís ability to hold off the Mercury now has them in position to win the title.

I want to use this space to encourage the team and the crowd to again band together on Wednesday for a special effort and atmosphere. There is no question that Indiana is the heart of basketball country, and I know you are all capable of getting it done. We have seen some special performances the past few weeks, none better than Ebony Hoffman returning to form and the emergence of a very talented rookie from Arizona State in Briann January. In fact, each and every Fever player has stepped up and contributed in this playoff run. We all knew that the Fever have two dynamic and special players in Catch and KT, but they canít win a title by themselves. And they donít have to. They have been helped all season long by their teammates. Catch continues to put it best by saying the Fever are 11 strong. I couldnít agree more. This is the best Fever team I have ever been around. Absolutely no agendas, the players get along great and they have their eyes on one common goal: a WNBA title.

I may not be physically at Conseco Fieldhouse on Wednesday night, but I will be there in spirit. Iíll be watching from a hotel in Taiwan. I guess the advantage about not broadcasting the game is that I can be a fan.

I also want to thank Kevin Messenger for his kind words in his blog concerning my absence on Wednesday night. It meant a lot. I gladly accepted the position of Fever play-by-play announcer back in the spring of 2000 and it has been a great ride. It will be even greater when the team is crowned WNBA champs on Wednesday night. Go Fever!

October 2, 2009

For a team that suffered a disappointing, heartbreaking loss in one of the greatest games played in WNBA history, the Indiana Fever appeared loose for two days prior to playing Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night. I could sense that, seeing the players in the lobby of our hotel, riding on the bus to and from practice, and assisting them on the court during practice on Wednesday and Thursday. So it didnít really surprise me that the Fever came out and played aggressive basketball and won Game 2 93-84 at the US Airways Center on Thursday night.

This series is even 1-1 now and Sunday should simply be the best environment in Indiana Fever history. Game 3 and the win against Detroit was special, but Sunday will take this franchise to a different level.

Tamika Catchings should never blame herself for letting her team down, but thatís what she did after Game 1. She started Game 2 with a flurry, scoring 11 first quarter points and nearly posting the first triple-double in Finals history. Cathcings, who finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds and playoff career high 11 assists, helped guide the Fever to a 12-point first quarter lead and helped the Fever set a defensive tone that carried for four quarters.

My radio partner Debbie Antonelli and I had discussed what had to change for the Fever to win Game 2. It really wasnít slowing the game down. If Mercury coach Corey Gaines wanted to play faster, well the Fever were fine with that. But they had to do a better job on the glass and get to the free throw line. In Game 1, Phoenix was +7 in rebounds and doubled the Fever in free throws made (32-16) and free throws attempted (38-19). That changed Thursday night. Indiana was +5 on the boards and hit 23-29 free throws to 18-24 for the Mercury.

Indiana also defended better. Corey Gaines claims Phoenix missed the same shot they made on Tuesday night. That may be true. But the Indiana defense was much better than it was on Tuesday night. The Mercuryís shot were challenged at a higher clip than in Game 1.

The final factor: the bench. Briann January is a terrific player and her game has been on full display in August, September and now early October. In Game 1, the Phoenix bench outscored Indiana 45-18. On Thursday, Indiana countered with a 30-22 advantage and January scored 16 with three of Indianaís four three-point field goals. And then thereís Jessica Davenport. She epitomizes why every coach says every player must be ready. She didnít play in Game 1, but she had 12 very important minutes with 10 points and three blocked shots. Her play midway through the third quarter took a six-point lead to 14 as the fourth quarter got underway.

A tremendous bounce back win, fueled by this teamís desire to win a championship and letting nothing get in its way. But theyíll need your help on Sunday and Wednesday. Phoenix wonít go away. But you can help make sure this series doesnít return to the Valley of the Sun by lending your vocal support Sunday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse.

September 30, 2009

There is only one word that I can use to describe Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. Wow!

Or a few words, with a tip of the cap to a quote Vin Scully made famous: I canít believe what I just saw.

Thatís my reaction after Phoenix rallied to beat the Fever 120-116 in overtime Tuesday night at the US Airways Center. It was an amazing game that set the record for most points scored in a playoff game, 236, and both teams scored more points than Phoenix scored in the regular season when they hit Sacramento for a then WNBA-record of 115 points.

Iíve broadcast so many games in my nearly 30 years of play-by-play that I canít count that high, but I know that this game ranks as one of the best. And while I am so disappointed that the Fever came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard, I think this game demonstrated how good the WNBA is and can be and how talented the players are.

The Fever played well, shot the ball great (a season-high 56%), and had a great shot to take Game 1 and 1-0 lead in the best of five series. Indiana generally took pretty good care of the basketball, but three fourth quarter turnovers in four possessions gave the Mercury momentum and Indianaís 96-89 lead was quickly wiped away with a 13-2 run that gave the Mercury the lead. The Fever fought back with Katie Douglasí rainbow three to force overtime, had a number of overtime leads, but Phoenix hit 6-10 field goals in the extra session to grab the win.

Katieís 30-point effort was the best of her playoff career. She has scored 28 and 30 in two games against Phoenix this year with 10 three-pointers. Sheíll be tough to handle for Phoenix the rest of the series. And what about Ebony Hoffman? That reminded me of the Ebony of 2008 and early this year. She looked super-confident with the basketball, and just shot it. She simply hadnít been doing that the last month and a half of the season. A 27-point outing on 12-14 shooting. Hopefully ďBig DogísĒ ankle sprain isnít too bad and she can continue to be aggressive in this series.

When you think about, the Fever led and were in the game without much offensively from Tamika Catchings. She was in foul trouble most of the night, and fouled out after she hit a three to give Indiana an overtime lead. In the locker room, she claims she let her teammates down. Well Catch, you may feel that way, but you did a lot of other things to help your team. I predict she will be offensively on fire in Game 2 Thursday night.

While you always want to win every game, realistically, getting a split is what your call is on the road in this series. And disappointing loss aside, that possibility still exists. Indiana knows it can play with and beat Phoenix. Counting Tuesday nightís loss, theyíve still won 7 of the last 11 overall and 4 of 6 here in Phoenix.

So Iím resting my voice and looking ahead to Thursday night. It will probably be more of the same. And thatís good for the WNBA. Only this time, letís hope the Fever come out on top.