Indiana Falls to Chicago in Dunn's Final Game

By Tom Rietmann | September 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lin Dunn walked slowly to mid-court, congratulated Chicago Coach Pokey Chatman and then made her way to the Indiana locker room.

Dunn knew that within minutes, she'd be talking to her Fever players for the last time as their head coach. She wanted her words to adequately express the deep feelings she has for this Fever team.

“One of the things I wanted them to know is, not only are they great players, they are great people,” said Dunn, a Hall of Fame coach who is retiring after seven seasons as Indiana's bench leader and 38 seasons in the college and pro ranks. “I've been honored to coach this team."

“That's challenging,” Dunn added during the post-game news conference, “to say good-bye.”

Chicago ended the Fever's season Wednesday night with a 75-62 victory in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Sky, which won the final two games of the best-of-three set, will make its first appearance in the WNBA Finals and play Phoenix in a best-of-five series that begins Sunday.

Allie Quigley came off the bench to lead Chicago with 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Center Sylvia Fowles powered Chicago's 14-7 run to open the fourth quarter, providing the visitors with a 14-point lead. Fowles finished with 17 points.

The Fever looked out of synch. Dunn suggested the team might have been tired from a double-overtime loss at Chicago on Monday.

Wednesday night, Indiana shot just 34.4 percent from the field (21-of-61) and 14.3 percent on 3-pointers (2-of-14), both lows for this postseason.

Indiana cut Chicago's lead to nine, 67-58, with 1:53 left. But a loose-ball foul by Tamika Catchings at the 1:39 mark, and then a technical foul called against Dunn, led to three Sky free throws that put the edge back to 12 points.

“(Chicago) played with the sense of urgency and the intensity that we played with in '09,” Dunn said, referring to the Fever's first visit to the WNBA Finals, where the team lost to Phoenix. “I could sense that in them -- just desperation to get to the Finals. I thought that kind of carried them through that game.”

For Indiana's Catchings, a former league and WNBA Finals MVP, it proved to be a difficult series. She finished Game 3 with nine points on 2-of-9 shooting. She averaged 11.7 points in the series on 11-of-43 shooting.

“The last three games,” Catchings said, “I just haven't played the best that I could to help this team. I think this team relies on me coming in and being effective. Offensively, I just couldn't get it going.

“The biggest thing is that my team, when they looked for me to step up, I just didn't.”

Most of the Indiana team struggled Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Shavonte Zellous, with 16 points, was the only Fever player in double-digit scoring. Erlana Larkins grabbed 11 rebounds -- her fourth game with 11 this postseason.

Dunn, 67, is retiring with 683 college and pro victories as a head coach. She is third in WNBA playoffs history with 23 victories. After her Fever club made its first WNBA Finals appearance in 2009, the team went back again in 2012 and won the league championship.

Stephanie White, the Fever's associate head coach, will take over as head coach next season.

In the locker room Wednesday night, Dunn told her players she considered it a privilege and an honor to have coached them. She talked about watching the team improve this season from some difficult, injury-wracked stretches. She praised them for making a late-season push into the playoffs and finishing one game away from the league Finals.

Mostly, Dunn extolled them as a special group.

Dunn's post-game talk resonated with her players.

“For a lot of us, we've gone through a lot with Lin,” said a teary-eyed Briann January, the team's point guard. “We've been here for years with her. She really pushed us and brought the best out of us.

“She said this was a great group of women, and it is. She's a part of that, part of that great group. We're going to miss her for sure.”