- FAN ZONE
- FEVER CARES
By Tom Rietmann
The loss was insignificant in playoff positioning. It wasn't, however, how the Indiana Fever wanted to head into the WNBA postseason -- stuck in a three-game losing streak that has the team and its fans grinding their teeth.
Sunday evening, the Minnesota Lynx slapped the latest loss on the Fever, 83-79 in overtime, in the regular-season final at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Lynx shot only 35.3 percent from the field, but with their 15 offensive rebounds and Indiana's 20 turnovers, the visitors were able to get 85 field goal attempts and hit 30. Indiana further hurt its own cause by missing 11 of its franchise-record 40 free throw attempts.
However, victories by Washington and New York earlier in the day left the Fever locked in as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Indiana (21-13) will open the playoffs Thursday night in New York against the second-seeded Liberty. The second game of the best-of-three series will be at the fieldhouse on Sunday.
Tamika Catchings, who led the Fever with 17 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, preferred to look ahead to the playoffs but couldn't help reflecting on losses to New York, San Antonio and Minnesota that ended the regular season.
“We had our destiny in our own hands, and we didn't take care of business,” said Catchings, an MVP candidate in the WNBA. “Now we're in a situation where we're No. 3. We went from (No.) 1 a week ago to No. 3 in a matter of three games.
“We have to put all of this away and move forward.”
The Fever split its season series with New York, each team winning a pair. New York finished the regular season with 11 victories in 12 games, including a win Sunday over Connecticut. Indiana was looking for a small piece of such impetus.
“(The loss to Minnesota) does matter to an extent that we wanted some momentum going into the first playoff game against New York,” said Indiana's Ebony Hoffman, who had a season-high 10 rebounds.
Hoffman paused and considered the 16-point first-half lead that the Fever frittered away against the Lynx.
That, she said, has been “plaguing us all season. We've let leads to go. I don't know what it is, but something happens where we're not as aggressive as we were when we got the lead. We have to shore that up.”
Katie Douglas, Indiana's second-leading scorer on the year, suffered a sprain of her left ankle in the final minute of the first quarter. She didn't return to the game, although coach Lin Dunn said she could have if the outcome had meant something. Douglas said afterward the Fever medical staff kept her on the bench “for precautionary reasons.”
“No question,” Douglas said about whether she'll be ready to play on Thursday.
Dunn is concerned that Douglas, as well her teammates, are tired in the aftermath of a week-long trip that ended Friday night at San Antonio.
“We want (Douglas) healthy and rested,” said Dunn, who went on to talk about her team in general. “That's the key for the playoffs. Get rested. Get our legs fresh. Get our minds fresh. I really believe this team, when they're not mentally, physically and emotionally tired, is very good, very dangerous.”
Minnesota (13-21) was led by 25 points from Seimone Augustus and 16 apiece from Charde Houston and Lindsay Whalen. Whalen's drive and free throw tied the game with 46.2 seconds left in regulation time. Catchings hit from the side a few seconds later, but Monica Wright's two free throws with 18.5 seconds left knotted it again. Minnesota's stout defense kept the Fever from getting off a shot in its final possession.
Augustus scored five of Minnesota's nine points in overtime, including a jumper that put the Lynx up 81-79 with 50 seconds left. Houston assured the victory with a pair of free throws with 17.2 seconds left.
Afterward, Tammy Sutton-Brown, who scored 16 points for Indiana, looked over at the locker room board where Dunn had noted some of the hurtful stats – specifically, the turnovers and missed free throws.
“It's hard to beat a team when you have those stats against you,” Sutton-Brown said. “And we have to close out teams. The positive thing is, the playoffs are a whole new season.”