Fever Fight, But Come Up Short in Atlanta

FeverBasketball.com Staff | September 26, 2013

ATLANTA -- The Indiana Fever faced their stiffest test of the postseason Thursday night at Philips Arena and came up just short, dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals 84-79 to the Atlanta Dream.

Atlanta leads the best-of-three series, 1-0. Game 2 is Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 3:00 p.m.

Tiffany Hayes led four Atlanta players in double figures with 23 points. Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 21.

It was a back-and-forth game for much of the night, featuring 15 ties and 11 lead changes in the first three quarters. Atlanta took the lead for good on Angel McCoughtry's jumper with 1:40 left in the third, but Indiana remained within striking distance until the final seconds.

Shavonte Zellous' 3-point basket from just in front of the Fever bench cut the lead to 78-75 with 1:27 to play, but Angel McCoughtry converted a three-point play on the other end to push the lead back to six.

Catchings then hit a contested 3-point shot just before the shot clock buzzer, drawing the foul in the process, but missed the ensuing free throw. Erlana Larkins secured the rebound, but Atlanta's defense held firm, forcing Zellous into a contested three with the shot clock winding down.

After McCoughtry hit one of two free throws, Hayes committed a dead ball foul (her sixth), allowing Indiana a free throw plus the ball with 16 seconds remaining. Catchings sank the free throw, but Briann January missed a running jumper and Atlanta secured the rebound to hold on for the win.

Atlanta had a hot night shooting the ball, remaining above 50 percent for the entirety of the contest, and finished the night at 53.3 percent. Hayes scored 23 on 8-for-14 shooting. McCoughtry added 18, five rebounds, and five assists. Armintie Herrington, inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in the postseason, added 16 points (13 in the first half), seven boards, and five assists.

"We have to keep them off the boards. They got a lot of offensive rebounds," Fever forward Karima Christmas. "(Atlanta was) cutting to the basket while we were double-teaming someone, I know Armintie got a lot of points that way."

On the other end, Erlana Larkins had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Fever, her third straight double-double. Going back to last year, Larkins has had double-digit rebounds in nine of her past 11 playoff games. Christmas had 15 points (on 16 shots) to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

Shavonte Zellous only played 12 minutes in the first half, sitting the final 6:30 after picking up her third foul. Zellous scored 11 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter.

"It's frustrating," Zellous said about her foul trouble. "You really can't get in the flow of the game, so that makes it a little more frustrating, too."

One key to Atlanta's victory was taking advantage of Indiana's mistakes. The Dream scored 23 points off 17 Fever turnovers. Indiana forced Atlanta into 12 turnovers, but only turned them in to six points.

"I think we knew coming in here that if we turn the ball over, they're a good transition offensive team," Christmas said. "We have to take care of the ball."