Lin Dunn shortened her rotation to eight players in Game 1 of the Finals with Briann January getting the most minutes (27) off the bench.
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PHOENIX, AZ, September 30, 2009 -- Fever head coach Lin Dunn does not believe that Tuesday night’s 116-point offensive explosion was an aberration for her squad. She trusts that her team can play – and win – the Finals while running with the Phoenix Mercury.
The Fever players and coaches met with the media prior to Wednesday’s practice session and discussed their Game 1 loss as well as the adjustments that need to be made for Thursday’s Game 2.
Dunn made it clear that just because the Fever dropped Game 1 while playing the running game with Phoenix, it does not mean she plans to abandon the strategy in Game 2.
“Why wouldn’t we do it if we shoot 55 percent when we do it?” she said. “We try to play up-tempo we just haven’t played a lot of other teams that also play up-tempo. We like to push the ball, we like to score early. But most of the teams that we’ve played are not as up-tempo as Phoenix where they want to do it too so now it speeds everything up.”
Tamika Catchings believes the difference comes down to which conference you play in and the style of play that dominates that conference.
“In the East we play a lot slower than in the West, that’s just by nature in the East,” she said. “We are one of the most up-tempo teams in the East; we’re running off of steals, running off of transition buckets, when teams score, it’s about getting the ball out quick and running. That’s what we do, but that’s just not characteristic of a team in the East like it is in the West.”
Both Dunn and Catchings admit that the Mercury play the speed game better than anyone in the league and that it will take combination of offense and solid transition defense to beat the Mercury at their own game.
Heading into the Finals, the Fever were labeled as the stingy defensive team in this matchup and ironically it is their defense that caused them the most problems in Game 1. The team that finished third the league this season in points allowed with an average of 73.6 gave up a WNBA-record 120 on Tuesday.
“We don’t need to worry about our offense in our opinion,” said Dunn. “We need to worry about on our defense. What we need to focus on is instead of allowing them to score 120 points and we score 116, we need it where they score 90. That has to be our focus.”
The key adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 for Indiana revolve around defense and rebounding, two areas they were believed to have the advantage heading into the Finals, but failed them on Tuesday.
“We just have to do a better job of getting matched up earlier in transition, defending the two-man game a little bit better and being smarter with our fouls. There are things we can correct. It’s not like we played a perfect game and got beat. I graded our offense an A- and our defense a C+.”
While Dunn did not waver on her opinion to continue to push the ball back on the Mercury, Catchings said the Fever need to find a balance of when to run and when to set up in the halfcourt.
“The fact that we’re playing the best up-tempo team in the league, people sort of underestimate us, and question whether or not we’d be able to get up and down with them," she said. "I think the biggest thing we have to focus on is that when they start hitting back-to-back-to-back shots, we have to slow it down. We have to be able to play their pace, but we also have to be able to pull it back.”
Clean the Glass
A recurring theme in speaking with Fever players and coaches immediately after their Game 1 loss on Tuesday and during Wednesday’s media availability was rebounding, specifically limiting Phoenix’s offensive rebounds and second-chance points.
The Mercury grabbed 12 offensive boards in Game 1 and converted those opportunities into 24 points. In a game decided by four points, it is easy to see why giving up those extra possessions would drive the coaching staff crazy.
"I don’t think we did a good job of finishing our defense with box outs to get the rebounds. When you give someone 24 second-chance points, that’s a problem,” said Dunn. “Let’s take 12 away and we win the ballgame. I’m not asking you not to give up any second chance points but you can’t give up 24.”
“We got out rebounded and that’s something that shouldn’t happen,” said Katie Douglas “Coming off a series like Detroit where we really emphasized rebounding and winning the boards, we didn’t win them, so we have to do a better job of that.
“There are little tings that we can do better than will make a big difference. We shouldn’t have relaxed and we should have made a concerted effort as a group to box everybody out and win the war on the boards and that is something that we’re going to absolutely put on our list of to-dos for tomorrow.”
Keep Catch Out of Foul Trouble
While Douglas was scoring a playoff career-high and Ebony Hoffman was having the game of her life, Catchings was having a frustrating night trying to guard league MVP Diana Taurasi and stay out of foul trouble.
Catchings was able to slow Taurasi down early, but continued to pick up fouls along the way, which clearly affected her rhythm on both ends of the floor. She finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, five assists and was forced to sit out the final two-plus minutes of overtime after fouling out of the game.
According to Dunn there will be no adjustment to try to help the Defensive Player of the Year keep the MVP under wraps. Dunn expects Catchings to make the necessary adjustments on her own.
“I want her to be smarter with her fouls; she has to help herself,” Dunn said. “She has to know when to get too close, when to go for a steal, when to back away. She just has to play defense smarter. When you’ve got two quick fouls you have to be careful and play smarter.”
Catchings was particularly hard on herself after Game 1, trying to place the blame completely on her shoulders. Her ability to defend Taurasi and stay on the floor in Game 2 will be crucial.