Catchings Dominates Fever Victory in Variety of Ways

By Tom Rietmann | August 21, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tamika Catchings won't be remembered for her field-goal shooting in Thursday night's playoff game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Missing 11-of-15 shots tends to be forgettable.

But few players can dominate like Catchings without making a lot of field goals. The Indiana Fever star took control against the Washington Mystics in a variety of other ways, producing a performance for the ages and carrying her team to a 78-73 victory in Game 1 of their WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals matchup.

“The thing that's so special about her is that she's so multi-dimensional,” Lin Dunn, the Fever's head coach, said about Catchings. “She's doing something everywhere. (She's) a once-in-a-lifetime player, and I'm privileged and honored that I've been able to coach her.”

Indiana trailed by a 50-47 count starting the fourth quarter against a Mystics team that went 13-0 in the regular season when leading after three. That's when the 35-year-old Catchings, who had already become the WNBA's all-time best playoffs rebounder with six in the first quarter, turned up her play even more.

The high-intensity and slashing Catchings, matched against Washington's Emma Meesseman, attacked the basket over and over. In the fourth quarter alone, she hit 10-of-10 free throws and 2-of-3 from the field for 14 points. She sparked a 12-2 run for Indiana that led to a nine-point lead with about a minute left.

“Steph (associate head coach Stephanie White) came to me between the third and fourth quarters and said, 'Forget about the first three quarters and just go out there and relax. Just get to the basket.'

“Once I started getting more aggressive, we all started getting more aggressive and getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line.”

Catchings totaled 22 points in the game on the strength of a 14-of-14 free throw mark. She grabbed 10 rebounds, giving her 21 career playoff double-doubles, the most in league history. She also had seven steals to set a new Fever postseason record and tie the WNBA mark for most in a regulation game.

“The thing we always preach to our teammates is that you have to bring more than just scoring,” said Catchings.

The Fever, playing a tough and physical brand of basketball, made a concerted effort to attack the basket, especially in the third and fourth quarters.

Indiana shot 23 free throws in the fourth quarter, hitting 17. The Fever was 23-of-29 from the line for the game, while Washington was 13-of-15.

Briann January scored 15 for the Fever and Shavonte Zellous had 10 points. Erlana Larkins grabbed 11 rebounds for her 10th career playoff game in double figures.

Ivory Latta led Washington with 22 points. She wore a mask to protect her bruised nose and drew a technical foul late in the game when she complained to officials about taking contact on her face. Meesseman scored 17 and Monique Currie had 11 points.

Indiana outrebounded Washington by a 36-32 count and forced 17 turnovers leading to 18 points.

“I just thought that defensively, they (the Fever) asserted their will in the fourth quarter,” Washington Coach Mike Thibault said.

January echoed that as she spoke in the Fever locker room. She, too, pointed to Indiana's late push that resulted in 31 fourth-quarter points.

“There was a defensive stretch where we locked down and we got a few stops in a row, and that really allowed us to take charge,” the point guard said.

For Indiana, the victory marked the eighth straight season in which it has won at least one playoff game, extending its own WNBA record. The Fever and the Mystics will meet in Game 2 of the best-of-three series Saturday in Washington. Game 3, if necessary, will be at the Fieldhouse on Monday.