STAR OF THE GAME
Tangela Smith
Smith scored a playoff career high 25 points and grabbed nine reboundsin 35 minutes to lead the Fever. Smith also had a Fever playoff record, five three's.
UNSUNG HERO
Shavonte Zellous
Zellous was huge off the Fever bench as she brought energy and tenacity. Zellous led the bench with 11 points.
QUOTABLE
Lin Dunn
In general:
“We had two keys to the game tonight. One, we wanted keep it close on the boards and two, we wanted to get to the free throw line. We committed a few too many turnovers, but compensated for that by getting to the free throw line. This was a huge team victory. I’m very happy for the players. We brought Tan (Tangela Smith) to the team to shoot threes. She has free reign on threes. Defensively we did the things we needed to do to win. We matched their physical play. And the fans… I want to thank the fans and I hope they don’t have to come back because we hope to take care of it in Atlanta.”

Tamika Catchings
How significant was this win?
“Really significant. Just going into game one, I kind of look at it as us being the underdog. We lost four games in the regular season (to Atlanta). But what’s going to happen in the playoffs? But after watching all four of the games, to think we never got beaten by more than a six point margin. Everything happens in the fourth quarter. So tonight when we went into the fourth quarter, it’s a tie game, 0-0. That’s the focus we came into the fourth quarter with, making sure we rebounded and did the right defensive rotations.”

HIDDEN NUMBERS
Points in the paint:
Fever 24, Dream 44
Second-chance points:

Fever 12, Dream 14
Fast-break points:

Fever 5, Dream 20
Points off turnovers:

Fever 12, Dream 20
Starters scoring:

Fever 64, Dream 63
Bench scoring:

Fever 18, Dream 11
Smith, Catchings lead Fever past Dream in Game 1

Team Record 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Atlanta 0-1 24 16 17 17 74
at Indiana 1-0 21 21 15 25 82

By Tom Rietmann | September 22, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- INDIANAPOLIS -- Each of the Indiana Fever's players recently received a necklace inscribed with five letters: FINAO. The letters stand for “failure is not an option.”

Thursday night, nobody took that inscription more seriously than Fever forward Tan Smith. The 14th-year veteran scored a career playoff high of 25 points, including a Fever-record five 3-pointers, and pushed her team to an 82-74 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals.

Top-seeded Indiana, which was 0-4 against the third-seeded Dream during the regular season, will play Game 2 of the best-of-three series Sunday in Atlanta.

For Smith, who has a pair of WNBA championship rings from her years in Phoenix, it was a special night. She missed her first two shots but persevered. Smith took advantage of Atlanta's defensive emphasis on Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas and kept shooting.

“They continued to leave me open and I was fortunate to knock down the shots,” said Smith, who's among the all-time leaders in the WNBA in scoring and rebounding.

Smith’s mother and grandmother were among about 10 family members who traveled from Chicago for the game. They saw a superb performance from a player whom the Fever acquired during the offseason. She also had nine rebounds.

“Tan did exactly what we expected her to do,” said Fever Coach Lin Dunn, who used the 6-3 forward extensively Thursday night in the team's ‘pick-and-pop’ play. “She has the green light. When she's open, we want her to shoot.”

Indiana's two main scorers, Douglas and Catchings, were held to 11 and 12 points, respectively. That's what made Smith's big night even more important.

“Awesome,” Catchings, named the league's MVP earlier in the day, said about Smith's performance. “She came out on fire.”

It was center Tammy Sutton-Brown who handed out the FINAO necklaces to her teammates recently. She scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Mostly, she was happy to break the hold that Atlanta had on her team during the regular season.

“Tonight was huge,” Sutton-Brown said. “Being 0-4 against Atlanta, we wanted to send a statement and get this first win and keep home-court advantage.”

It wasn't easy. The fourth quarter started in a 57-all tie. Smith hit a pair of treys and Shavonte Zellous scored five points off the bench. Five minutes into the quarter, Indiana held a 68-62 edge.

“I did what I always try to do, come off the bench and bring energy,” Zellous said after totaling 11 points. “But this series is far from over.”

Catchings, coming off a whirlwind two days after hearing about her MVP honor, went to work midway through the fourth quarter. When Catchings was wrestled to the floor by Iziane Castro Marques, who was called for a flagrant foul with 4:24 left, the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd of 8,253 got fired up.

When Catchings made an over-the-head, backward shot as she drove to the bucket in the final two minutes, the Fever went up 74-66. The play was symbolic of many great ones Dunn has seen from the league's MVP.

“And the win,” Dunn added, “was an exclamation point.”

Indiana finished off the victory with eight free throws. The Fever outscored Atlanta 23-9 at the foul line.

“We were attacking,” Dunn said. “That's really big for us.

Indiana held Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta's star forward, to 11 points and zero rebounds. The Dream is a physical team, but the calls went against McCoughtry, who spent most of the game in foul trouble and got her sixth in the final minute.

“There were a lot of bodies flying,” Dunn said. “It got pretty physical. At the end of the day, I thought we matched their physical play.”

Indiana expects to see more on Sunday.

Postgame Notes:

  • Tonight's win is the Fever's first against the Dream since August of last year, ending a run of four straight wins by the Dream, its longest winning streak ever against the Fever.
  • Tangela Smith's postseason career-high 25 points included a Fever franchise record five 3-pt FG, which are her most ever in a WNBA playoff game. Tonight's performance marks the first time Smith has scored 20+ points in a playoff game since 2004.
  • Smith added nine rebounds, including five offensive boards. That is one offensive rebound short of her most ever in a playoff game.
  • With 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, Tamika Catchings registered the 15th double-double of her postseason career.
  • Having shot just 9-17 from the foul line tonight, the Dream posted the second lowest free throw percentage (.529) by a Fever opponent in a playoff game. The all-time record was Detroit's .471 (8-17) in 2007.
  • Atlanta outscored the Fever, 20-5, in fast break points. That is just the third time that an Indiana opponent has scored 20+ points on the break in 2011. In the previous two games that an opponent scored 20+ points, the Dream scored 24 points at Atlanta, 7/19, and another 24 points at Philips Arena, 8/30.
  • Atlanta's 13 steals tonight are the most ever by a Fever opponent in a playoff game and the Dream outscored Indiana, 20-12, in points off turnovers.
  • Indiana outrebounded the Dream, 41-38, matching its third most rebounds ever in a playoff game.