Indiana's Valiant Effort Ends in East Finals

Tom Rietmann | September 29, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- What Indiana Coach Lin Dunn will remember most about the 2013 season is her team's off-the-charts resilience and resolve.

“There was a time when we were 1-7, and we battled and battled and battled,” Dunn said Sunday after the visiting Atlanta Dream eliminated the Fever, 67-53, from the WNBA Eastern Conference finals. “For us to get this close to the (league) Finals, I think, is a tremendous accomplishment.

“This season, to me, was like a season of testing your character,” Dunn added. “You could either get up and fight or you can lay down and quit.”

From the beginning, the Fever dealt with injuries to key players in the team's quest to repeat as WNBA champions. Indiana persevered, gaining the fourth -- and last -- seed in the East playoffs.

On Sunday, however, the Fever struggled mightily with its shooting as Atlanta completed a sweep of the best-of-three conference finals.

Indiana hit just 18-of-64 field goal attempts, tying its franchise playoff low of 28.1 percent. Tamika Catchings, the only Fever player in double digits, had 24 points on 6-of-13 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the foul line. The rest of the Indiana squad hit just 12-of-51 from the field.

“It was hard to get good looks,” Dunn said, praising Atlanta's defense. “But I thought when we did get good looks, we didn't knock them down. When we did get to the rim, we didn't finish the layup. When we did get the open 3, we didn't hit it.”

Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, who scored a game-high 27 points, outscored the Fever team by herself in the third quarter, 11-9.

It didn't get much better in the fourth quarter for Indiana. Atlanta opened an 11-point lead at 57-46 on a drive by Tiffany Hayes. The Fever never pulled closer than eight thereafter, and the 53-point total marked a team season low and a franchise postseason low.

Of Atlanta's 67 points, 48 came in the paint. The Dream, which advances to the WNBA Finals, burned Indiana with its attacking, slashing offense.

“They certainly played with an enormous amount of energy and effort,” Dunn said about the Dream. “They used their quickness, they used their youth. And I thought they really did a good job with their dribble-drive penetration.

“It just took a toll on us. We really couldn't deal with it.”

The Fever shot 37.7 percent in the series' two games. Inconsistent shooting was a problem that hurt Indiana at various times during the season. The loss of shooting guard Katie Douglas to a back injury for most of the year proved difficult to overcome.

“Hopefully, this time next year, we'll be healthy,” Dunn said. “We'll be deeper, and we can come back and chase that championship again.”

Catchings had only praise for her team for its conduct during the regular season and playoffs.

“The way we started, (and) with all the adversity all season long, it never really felt like we were going for back-to-back championships. It felt like we were the underdog,” Catchings said.

“(It was) the tremendous fight we had as a team. I'm just grateful and honored to represent this organization and to play with the players we played with. I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of where we are and where we stand.”

Fever point guard Briann January, sitting dejectedly by her locker after Sunday's loss, summed up what she will carry away from the 2013 campaign.

“I think I personally gained toughness through the toughness that everybody else showed on the team,” January said. “They showed what it took to get the job done. You just have to dig deep sometimes, and we dug deep the entire season.”