#Fever15 Moments: 2009 Eastern Conference ChampionshipTweet
The Date: September 26, 2009
In 2009, the Indiana Fever had the best record in the Eastern Conference for the first time ever. But defending their title in the postseason would be far from a catwalk. After rolling past Washington in the first round, Indiana met up with a familiar foe in the Eastern Conference Finals: the Detroit Shock.
The Shock were the defending WNBA champions and had advanced to the WNBA Finals for three consecutive seasons. In each of those three seasons, Detroit had beaten the Fever head-to-head in the playoffs.
The 2009 series looked headed for a similar result when Shavonte Zellous, then a rookie with the Shock, scored a game-high 23 points off the bench to lead the Shock to a 72-56 win in Game 1 in Detroit. Indiana led by as many as 11 in the first half, but managed just six third-quarter points and were outscored by 18 in the second half.
Katie Douglas had a team-high 16 points, but was just 6-of-19 from the field. Tammy Sutton-Brown added 14, while Tamika Catchings contributed nine points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
As the series shifted back to Indianapolis, the Fever found themselves once again facing elimination.
"We know exactly what we've got to do now,'' Douglas said after the loss in Detroit. "We've got two games at our building, and we're going to have to play two great games to win this series.''
In the first half of Game 2, the Fever defense was relentless, forcing a playoff-record 12 steals in the first quarters, five of them by Tamika Catchings. But despite their efforts on the defensive end, Indiana entered halftime nursing just a one-point lead.
With 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, Detroit's Alexis Hornbuckle fouled Catchings hard as the Fever star drove to the basket. Fever fans looked on nervously as Catchings stayed down on the ground for several minutes. It was an all-too-familiar scene — two years earlier, Catchings had torn her right achilles in a decisive Game 3 against Detroit, an injury that turned a competitive game into a blowout.
But this time, Catchings got up and remained in the game.
"She came back,'' Fever forward Ebony Hoffman said. "Tears in her eyes and all, she came back rolling."
Indiana outscored the Shock 31-25 the rest of the way to come away with a 79-75 victory. Catchings was sensational, finishing with 22 points, nine rebounds, six steals, and five assists. Douglas added 14 points, Hoffman contributed 13, and rookie Briann January scored 12 off the bench.
So the series with the Fever and Shock went the full three games for the third straight year, but this time around, the Fever hosted the winner-take-all battle. The Fever played before a capacity crowd of 18,165 roaring fans after Pacers President Larry Bird bought tickets for the entire balcony and gave them away to ensure the Fever had the best possible homecourt advantage.
Like Game 2, the series finale was a tight contest all night. But the Fever were strong in the clutch, making all 16 of their free throws in the fourth quarter. Indiana took the lead for good on a pair of foul shots by Catchings with 3:30 remaining. Detroit twice cut the lead to one on two occasions, but the Fever hit six more free throws down the stretch to seal a 72-67 victory and advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Tammy Sutton-Brown led all scorers with 17 points. Katie Douglas added 14, while Catchings and Hoffman each scored 10 in the victory.
Finally, the Fever had found a way to beat the Shock when it mattered most.
"We all know the history of this game," Catchings said after the win. "....We came ready to play."
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