#Fever15 Moments: 2012 WNBA ChampionshipTweet
The Date: October 21, 2012
Of all the moments we picked for our #Fever15 Moments contest, the 2012 WNBA championship was the easiest choice. But the Fever team's journey to a championship was anything but easy.
The Fever finished the regular season 22-12, earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference. In the conference semifinals, the Fever dug themselves an early hole, dropping Game 1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to the Atlanta Dream. The Fever headed to Atlanta facing early elimination on the road.
But as they would do time and time again during their playoff run, the Fever responded with their backs against the wall. Six Fever players scored in double figures as Indiana won Game 2 in Atlanta, 103-88. Tamika Catchings led the way with 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Briann January added 24 points and seven assists. Erlana Larkins, moved into the starting lineup in the postseason after starting just two games in the regular season, contributed 16 points and seven rebounds.
In Game 3, Larkins made another huge contribution to help push the Fever into the Eastern Conference Finals. The University of North Carolina product recorded the first double-double of her career in emphatic fashion, scoring 16 points and pulling down 20 rebounds (nine of them on the offensive end) in Indiana's 75-64 victory.
The Fever faced another stiff test in the conference finals, where they met up with top-seeded Connecticut and league MVP Tina Charles. Despite 27 points from Katie Douglas, Charles and the Sun got the best of Indiana in Game 1, handing the Fever a 76-64 defeat. Charles dominated, finishing with 18 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks.
Once again, the Fever found themselves facing elimination. Game 2 in Indianapolis was a back-and-forth affair that literally came down to the final second. Tamika Catchings' layup with 21.3 seconds left gave Indiana a two-point lead. But Connecticut's Allison Hightower hit a jumper and was fouled at the other end, tying the game and giving the Sun a chance to take a late lead.
But Hightower's ensuing free throw rimmed out, and Catchings grabbed the rebound. She tossed the ball to a streaking Briann January, who missed a layup on the other end, but hustled to get the rebound and slap the ball back out to Shavonte Zellous. Zellous moved toward the free throw line and sank a jump shot just before the final buzzer to lift Indiana to a thrilling 78-76 victory. It was a shot that would become one of the defining moments of the Fever's championship run.
"That's what Z does all day in practice," Catchings said about Zellous' game-winning shot. "Right when it left her hand, it was like, 'All right, this is going in.' ''
In the final game of the series with Connecticut, star guard Katie Douglas sprained her ankle just five minutes into the game, leaving the Fever without one of its best players. But other players rose up in her absence. Fellow sharpshooters Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen hit 7-of-8 3-pointers and combined for 29 points. Tamika Catchings was her usual reliable self, compiling 22 points and 13 rebounds. And the Fever knocked off the Sun on the road in convincing fashion, winning 87-71 to advance to the WNBA Finals for just the second time in franchise history.
In the Finals, the Fever faced off against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. In Game 1, Erlana Larkins scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds (seven on the offensive end) to lead the Fever to a 76-70 victory in Minnesota. Tamika Catchings added 20 points for the Fever, who continued to play without the services of the injured Douglas.
But although Indiana had stolen back homecourt, the Fever encountered more diversity in Game 2. The Lynx prevailed 83-71, and Fever sharpshooter Jeanette Pohlen tore her ACL, leaving the Fever down two guards heading into Game 3.
The series then shifted to Indianapolis, where the undermanned Fever rose to the occasion in front of their home crowd. Indiana dominated from the start, leading by as many as 37 points (a WNBA Finals record) en route to a 76-59 victory. Shavonte Zellous scored a career-high 30 points in the win.
“Screaming, hollering, yelling, all that red. I was getting dizzy,” Dunn said about the home crowd. “It was wonderful.”
Added Zellous: "“This game, I was really into it. Game 2 left a bad taste in my mouth. We let a game slip away from us up there. I was just focused to do whatever we needed to do to get this win tonight.”
Just like 2009, the Fever had a chance to win a WNBA title on their home court. This time, they weren't to be denied, as Tamika Catchings (who was named Finals MVP) scored 25 points and dished out eight assists to lead Indiana to a 87-78 win and the first championship in franchise history.
Even down two players, the Fever found a way to win both Games 3 and 4 by comfortable margins to seal the deal.
"We probably don't have as much talent top to bottom as they do,” Dunn said after the Fever captured the title. “So we had to win the old-fashioned way with great defense, with rebounding, with toughness."
The Fever's 2012 WNBA title didn't come easy, as the team faced numerous roadblocks throughout the playoffs. But in the end, they banded together and — with the support of their fans — were able to bring a championship home to Indiana. It's a moment that no Fever fan will ever forget.
Is the Fever winning the 2012 WNBA Championship one of your favorite moments in Fever history? Be sure to vote for it in FeverBasketball.com's #Fever15 Moments Tournament! Vote Now »