Takeaways from Game 1

By Scott Agness | September 20, 2013

The Indiana Fever opened the 2013 WNBA postseason on the road in Chicago against a team they’ve fared very well against. In Game 1, on a mission to defend their WNBA Championship, the Fever received a big contribution from all five starters and shot 63 percent behind the arc on their way to an 85-72 victory Friday night at Allstate Arena.

This best-of-three conference semifinals series will continue on Sunday in Indianapolis with the game slated for 3:00 p.m. EST (ESPN2). The winner of this matchup will face either Atlanta or Washington in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Through the years, this series has heavily tilted in favor of the Fever. With another W to their name, the Fever, who made their ninth straight playoff appearance, improved to 28-6 all-time against the Sky – and 3-0 this season at Allstate Arena.

Indiana won three of four regular-season meetings, including both road games. Their only loss was the first meeting of the season where the Fever were without the services of five key players.

Below are my takeaways from Game 1:

• The Sky have the clear advantage up front with Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne standing 6-6 and 6-5, respectively. Yet the Fever had their way in the paint and outrebounded the Sky 32-21. An emphasis on boxing out for the Fever was apparent. (Fowles and Delle Donne did combine for seven blocks).

• Indiana excelled from deep. They drained eight of their first 11 attempts and finished with a 63 percent clip (10-for-16).

• Head coach Lin Dunn had to be pleased with the ball movement of her team. They weren’t settling for shots but instead finding an open teammate. Their vision and passing was superb. They recorded 20 assists on 32 field goals.

• Shavonte Zellous’ offensive play was outstanding. In just over 26 minutes of play, she scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Zellous was in rhythm, used a shot-fake to her advantage and buried all three of her 3-point attempts.

• The Fever outplayed the Sky in every quarter, particularly in the second where they outscored the home team by 10 and went into the halftime ahead 50-37. Best of all, the Fever didn’t relinquish their double-digit lead like they have far too many time this season.

• All five starters finished in double figures and center Erlana Larkins recorded a double-double: 12 points and 11 rebounds. She’s an integral part of their success.

• The Fever are used to managing without Katie Douglas, who missed all but four regular-season games due to a back injury. She re-injured it in practice and was held out of Game 1 but there wasn’t a let down. You can be sure, however, that the team is hopeful for her return.

• With Douglas in dress clothes, Karima Christmas played excellent, finishing with 16 points (a new playoff career-high), nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists. She did have a team-high four giveaways.

• Just less than one-third of Chicago’s points were earned at the foul line. They were 21-for-24 at the line. The Fever will want to cut down on their fouls committed (20), though a few were smart fouls that prevented wide-open layups.

• Catchings, who tallied 11 points, became just the third player in WNBA history to top 800 career postseason points.

• Also of note: Before the game, Sylvia Fowles was named Defensive Player of the Year, edging Tamika Catchings by just five votes (21-16). Those two have combined to win the award in each of the last five seasons.

• The Fever are the better team. They shot the ball well, didn’t get dominated by the Sky’s frontcourt, and limited their turnovers (13). That’s a winning formula in this series.

• I like Indiana’s chances in this series. Chicago, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, is making its first playoff appearance and it showed. Meanwhile, Indiana’s top seven players available all made contributions to their championship last season. Led by experienced veterans, they’ve been here before. The Fever can close the series with a win on Sunday.