Fever Shooters Hit the Mark in Victory
By Tom Rietmann | August 10, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Fever players and coaches talked about it in pre-game meetings: Be aggressive offensively. Don't hesitate on open shots.
The game plan worked swimmingly Saturday night. Indiana shed any reluctance to shoot the basketball and connected on a season-high 50 percent from the field in a convincing 80-66 victory over the Atlanta Dream at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Fever ranked last in WNBA shooting and scoring, but the team is hopeful that Saturday night's satisfying effort will alter that trend. The 80 points tied their season high for 2013.
“We talked about it (Friday): just playing with confidence and knowing that the shots will fall,” said Fever forward Tamika Catchings, who hit 8-of-19 shots for a game-high 21 points. “I know we have struggled all season long, but now hopefully we've hit that turning point in our season.”
The Fever evened its record at 11-11 with its third victory in the last four games. Everybody in the Indiana locker room understood the triumph's significance. The players wanted something to catapult them into a three-game Western Conference trip to play Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle.
The Fever, in third place in the East, also understood the importance of a victory over second-place Atlanta (11-7). Their energy level reflected as much. It helped them win the rebounding totals by a whopping 32-19 margin and aided them in making 10 steals and forcing 16 Atlanta turnovers.
“I think we did the things we needed to do to beat the team right above us,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. “And we really wanted to beat Atlanta. I thought we were real dialed in for that.”
Fever guard Erin Phillips was dialed in, connecting on a career-high five 3-pointers in seven attempts. Phillips, who started in place of Shavonte Zellous (plantar fasciitis), spearheaded an Indiana team that hit 8-of-14 from 3-point range.
Phillips, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery early this season and has battled to regain her health, viewed the Fever's offensive aggression as a key factor.
“We knew against this team, if you don't take your open shots, then you turn the ball over and they're going to run it down your throat,” said Phillips, who totaled 15 points. “It was absolutely vital that we took our open shots. It was a really good, aggressive offensive game for us.”
Karima Christmas, scoring in double figures for the seventh straight game, matched Phillips' 15 points. Briann January added 13 points and led the Fever with five assists. Erlana Larkins had eight points and 11 rebounds.
After building a 12-point lead in the third quarter, Indiana hit a rut with four turnovers that helped Atlanta slice the margin to two, 59-57. But January made a field goal just before the third-quarter horn, and it seemed to right the ship. When Phillips buried a 3-pointer with 7:30 left in the game, Indiana's lead was back at 10.
Indiana's sound shooting proved timely since Atlanta hit 50.9 percent from the field. But the Fever held Angel McCoughtry, the second-leading scorer in the WNBA, to 17 points -- 4.1 under her average.
“I thought we defended as well as we could against Angel; she's just a tremendous player,” Dunn said. “Briann guarded her. Karima guarded her. We kind of guarded her with the whole team. She may have gotten 17, but they were a tough 17.”