62 at Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn made it clear whom she was crediting for her team's series-clinching win on Monday night.
“I want to thank our fans,” Dunn said as she opened her post-game news conference following the Fever's 72-62 victory over the New York Liberty. “They were loud and wild and crazy. They really energized us. That's what it's all about.”
A Conseco Fieldhouse crowd of 7,368 provided the noisy backdrop as the Fever eliminated New York in the third game of the WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals and advanced to meet Atlanta in the conference finals. The best-of-three series against the Dream begins Thursday night at The Fieldhouse, where Indiana is now 5-0 in elimination games and 12-4 overall in the team's playoff history.
Monday night, the Fever won a fiercely contested and physical game against the Liberty by turning up the defensive pressure and forcing 20 turnovers that led to 26 points.
“We knew we had to take it up a notch,” said Dunn, who watched her team fall 87-72 on Saturday in Game 2 on the Liberty's court. “I thought tonight we were really disruptive. At the end of the day, that was really key for us.”
Also key was some timely scoring by Katie Douglas, who led the Fever with 21 points, and Tamika Catchings, who had 17 points with a game-high eight rebounds. An 11-0 run in the fourth quarter blew the game open for Indiana, with Douglas and Catchings combining for nine.
For Catchings, a leading candidate for MVP in the league, it was a nice comeback from Saturday's game, when she totaled just two points. But Catchings refused to go into a funk after Game 2. When the team returned to Indianapolis on Sunday, she went to the gym, worked on the types of shots she missed and watched some film. She made the necessary corrections.
Said Dunn about her star player's performance on Monday: “It was a classic Catchings' night.”
As for Douglas, she is having perhaps the best playoff series of her 10-year career, averaging 22 points a game. She added four rebounds and a pair of assists Monday night.
“I can say this: This is probably the most focused and locked in that I've been,” Douglas said. “I'm just in a good rhythm.”
Point guard Erin Phillips scored 12 points for Indiana and added five steals, three assists and three rebounds. Phillips also played a big role in holding Liberty star Cappie Pondexter to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. When Phillips wasn't guarding Pondexter, four other Fever players were rotating on her.
“Tonight, we really matched their physicality and played through the ups and downs,” Phillips said.
New York coach John Whisenant pointed to the free throw disparity as a major factor in the game. Indiana hit 21-of-25. The Liberty was 7-of-9.
Indiana is now 5-0 against the Liberty in playoff games at the fieldhouse. Every game has come with intense, tough play.
How tough was this one? With 39.1 seconds left in the first quarter, Catchings and Nicole Powell were both called for technical fouls after a battle in the lane. Nineteen seconds later, Catchings had the ball, took a jab step and pulled up for a 15-foot field goal as Powell fell backward on the fake. The crowd went bonkers.
“I knew I had to come out and be better defensively on Nicole,” Catchings said. “In the beginning, I had to be in her face and all over her. I think that kind of helped us from a defensive standpoint.
“This was a very physical game. The difference between last game and this game was our aggressiveness as a team.”