Indiana Surges From Gate, Clinches Playoff Spot
By Tom Rietmann | August 14, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana came out running and attacking and playing formidable defense Thursday night, assembling perhaps its finest half of basketball this season.
The Fever made it hold up for a victory that catapulted the team into the playoffs.
Indiana surged to a 26-point lead by the second quarter and overcame a choppy second half to capture a 76-63 triumph over the New York Liberty at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The outcome brought the Fever franchise its 10th consecutive playoff berth, matching the WNBA record set by the Seattle Storm (2004-13).
For a Fever team (15-17) that has struggled at times this season, the victory produced smiles and optimism and an element of energy heading into the final two regular-season games this weekend.
“I think right now, we're trying to turn it up another gear and send a message to everybody we are the Indiana Fever and this is what we will do with defending and attacking in transition,” said guard Shavonte Zellous, whose 11 points made her one of four Fever players in double digits.
“Our mindset has switched a little bit. We're trying to take everything up another notch.”
Another opportunity to do so will come Saturday at the Fieldhouse when Chicago visits and Sunday in New York when the Fever finish the regular season against the Liberty.
Indiana, Chicago and Washington are all tied for second place in the Eastern Conference. Only Atlanta, top seed in the East, is locked into its playoff position. Four of six teams in each conference make the postseason.
Indiana players and coaches are focusing not on playoff seeding but on playing their games in four-minute sections. The idea is to win each segment, which they pretty much did in the first half on Thursday.
The 26-point bulge was their largest of the season. The Fever held New York (13-19) to 27.3 percent shooting in the first half. Indiana hit its shots at a 52.9 percent clip.
“It really felt like everybody was on the same page,” said Fever forward Tamika Catchings, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. “From a defensive standpoint, I just felt like we were all in sync. Offensively, (it was) getting the ball out and pushing it, people running and getting transition buckets, just everybody working together.
“The pieces are starting to click for us,” Catchings added. “We just have to continue building off what we have.”
The second half started on a downbeat for Indiana, and New York began chipping away. A 16-2 run by the Liberty -- during which the Fever went nearly 7 minutes without a field goal -- sliced Indiana's margin to 12 points early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we looked cold,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said about the third quarter. “I thought (the Liberty) came out and got fired up. You always worry when you're 25-26 points ahead. Will you stay focused? You try to get teams to play like it's tied and we certainly didn't.”
Added Dunn about the second-half lull: “It happened to us, and we were able to escape it.”
Three-point field goals by Zellous and Karima Christmas and then a jumper by Catchings pushed Indiana's lead to 15 with 2:25 remaining.
Point guard Briann January led the Fever with 16 points. Christmas scored 14 off the bench.
Tina Charles led New York with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Cappie Pondexter had 10 points.