Resilient Fever Beats Sun, Secures No. 2 Playoff Seed
August 23, 2005 at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, Conn.)
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - In a game of runs, the Indiana Fever had the final move.
Tamika Catchings scored 18 points and grabbed a key defensive rebound in the closing seconds to lead a rally that gave the Fever a 69-63 victory Tuesday night over the Connecticut Sun.
"They were going to make their runs and we were, too," Catchings said. "We came together in the huddle and said if we want to win this game we have to stick together and get the ball inside."
The Fever (20-12), who gained homecourt advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs, erased a seven-point deficit late in the game. It was the Fever's fourth straight win and its first at the Mohegan Sun Arena for the Fever in their last four visits.
"We came in really composed," Catchings said. "Last time we came in here, they blew us out."
Connecticut (24-8) had already locked homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Sun have only lost three of 17 home games and the final seconds of this defeat were frustrating ones for the Eastern Conference leaders.
Coach Mike Thibault was ejected with 31 seconds left after arguing a discrepancy over timeouts remaining. He threw down his clipboard in disgust as he walked off, but by then the Fever had the game all but put away.
Jurgita Streimikyte hit consecutive jumpers to pull the Fever even at 59 with 2:59 left. Indiana went ahead on two free throws by Tully Bevilaqua on its next possession. Deanna Jackson put Indiana up for good with a layup on an assist by Catchings for a 63-61 lead with 44 seconds left.
Lindsay Whalen then missed an open layup for the Sun and Catchings came down with the rebound.
"She's hard to box out, she's slippery," Fever center Natalie Williams said of Catchings.
Indiana hit six of seven free throws down the stretch to ice it, including one off the Thibault technical.
"We kept our poise, we didn't get rattled and we handled their defensive changes," Indiana coach Brian Winters said. "We made some good defensive changes and we made our free throws when it counted."
Kelly Miller finished with 15 points for Indiana, and Streimikyte and Williams scored 10 apiece.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin led Connecticut with 16 points. Sales added 14.
The Fever didn't miss much early. In fact, neither team did as Connecticut took a 37-32 lead into intermission after shooting 58 percent in the opening period. Indiana hit its first seven shots and shot 52 percent for the half. Williams had three of those baskets. Her 12-footer with 13:56 left gave the Fever its first lead at 16-15, but the lead would change hands six times in the first half alone.
Indiana shot 52 percent for the game, its second-best effort of the season. The Fever, the WNBA's worst shooting team, shot above 50 percent for the second time in three games, and was aided by six offensive rebounds in the second half.