Catchings 'points' way to Fever victory
By Tom Rietmann
INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Lin Dunn called it the Indiana Fever's “deadly twist play.”
Whatever the name, that formation helped to close out the Fever's 71-63 victory Sunday night over the visiting Seattle Storm. With star forward Tamika Catchings at point guard in place of injured Briann January, the Fever used a 6-0 run in the final two minutes to capture its second consecutive victory after losing seven in a row.
The injury-depleted Indiana club needed a set that everybody in an ever-changing lineup was familiar with. The “twist” served that purpose.
With January not playing in the second half because of a mild concussion, and the Fever short of backup point guards, the veteran Catchings drew the assignment of running Indiana's offense.
“We moved some people around,” Dunn said, “and just went with one little set that we thought would be good for us because people were playing out of position.
“This was one of those games,” Dunn added, “where you are adapting on the fly.”
It worked, thanks in large part to Catchings' knowledge of every position on the floor. She was at her play-making best.
“I was trying to get some post-ups, trying to get some easy shots for everybody,” said Catchings, who led the Fever with 18 points and five assists. “Point guard, in my eyes, is about putting people in the right position and getting people comfortable.”
Jessica Breland's comfort level rose appreciably in the second half as she operated at power forward. Breland, who didn't play in the WNBA last season, produced career highs of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana. Shavonte Zellous added 14 points and Karima Christmas had 12.
The Fever (3-7) opened the game by spurting to a 17-4 lead. But Seattle (4-6) kept chipping away.
When Zellous tied it at 50-all with a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter, it set the stage for a dramatic fourth.
Breland contributed six points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter. Chrismas had five points, including an important 3-pointer after Seattle trimmed Indiana's eight-point lead to four. And Catchings took care of the rest, recording a driving layup, an assist and a steal in the final 1:50.
The Fever hit all six of its free throws in the fourth quarter and all 18 attempts in the game, setting a franchise record. Catchings, who was 9-of-9 from the foul line, has connected on 24 straight.
Indiana also outrebounded Seattle by 7-0 in the fourth quarter and by a whopping 34-22 in the game. At halftime, Seattle led the rebounding totals by 17-14.
“I thought our defense went up another level (in the second half),” Dunn said. “I thought we got some key rebounds.”
January's injury, resulting from a collision with Camille Little in the first quarter, left a cloud of concern over Indiana's triumph. The team hopes to have January back for its next game -- Saturday against Connecticut at Bankers Life Fieldhouse -- but Dunn said it wasn't a certainty. January is the seventh Fever player to miss playing time due to injury in the team's first 10 games.
Guards Katie Douglas (back) and Jeanette Pohlen (knee) likely won't return until after the WNBA All-Star Game on July 27. Erin Phillips (knee) could possibly return for the Connecticut game, which would give Indiana another experienced player at point guard.
“It's something we continue to talk about,” Catchings said. “When one person goes down, everybody needs to step up. It's been an adjustment.”
Zellous summed up the short-handed Fever's weekend sweep of games against Tulsa and Seattle.
“We're going to fight. That's what we do,” she said.