Balance proves key to Fever success

By Amber Harding | July 1, 2009
There’s a reason that the Indiana Fever is on top of the Eastern Conference. That reason is not Katie Douglas or Tamika Catchings. It’s not even an excellent coaching staff. The cause for the Fever’s recent success can be summed up in one word – teamwork.

After beginning the season 0-2 and losing by 22 points in the home opener, the Fever has bounced back with a six-game winning streak, tying a franchise record and proving to the rest of the WNBA that Indiana is for real.

For some players, the spotlight has been on them all season. Douglas and Catchings, averaging 18.1 and 14.6 points per game respectively, have not disappointed the Fever faithful. Douglas led the 17-point comeback against Detroit on June 21, and fans will not forget her 26-point second half that propelled the Fever to a one-point overtime win over the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden.

Catchings played a huge role in that overtime game as well, hitting the tying 3-point shot at the end of regulation.

“As you play and as you continue to play, you want to be the person the team looks to to be able to knock down a shot like that,” Catchings said.

While Catchings accepts her role as a veteran and a leader, she emphasizes the fact that every member of the Fever lineup has confidence in each other’s abilities.

“That’s the great thing about this team,” she said. “We know that on any given night, anybody can step up or hit a big shot.”

Starting forward Ebony Hoffman knows a thing or two about hitting big shots, as she was the player to hit the clutch free throws that sent Indiana to victory in New York. While the team counts on Hoffman for her ability to pull down rebounds, her 11.8 points-per-game average is certainly impressive as well.

“I think that’s one of my advantages,” Hoffman said. “Being a versatile post player, being able to hit the 3 and drag the defense out. It opens up opportunities for other players.”

After the season-ending injury to seven-time WNBA All-Star Yolanda Griffith, many Indiana fans worried about the strength of play under the basket. Head Coach Lin Dunn, however, believes her team fought through the adversity and is excited about its new players, Jessica Moore and Jessica Davenport, who have joined the Fever to replace Griffith.

“Of course they don’t have her experience,” Dunn said. “But they’re good young posts who are helping us win games.”

Although Moore has only been a member of the Fever since June 11, she is already impressed with the character of her team.

“We don’t have one big star or one big ego on this team,” Moore said. “Everybody’s very selfless.”

Moore explained that every member of the Fever squad has a specific goal: to do whatever she needs to do in order to contribute to the team’s success.

“I need to continue to be a positive energy that comes off the bench every game,” she said. “I just try to do whatever’s needed to help us win.”

The players put in this hard work not only during games and practices, but also during their own free time. Hoffman said that she’s proud of the way everyone sticks around after practice to work on shooting.

“This team’s at its best when everybody helps out,” Hoffman said. “It’s not about just one or two people. It takes everybody putting in the hard work.”

Dunn believes that this determination is what gives the team its balance.

“Any time you have balanced scoring or different scoring leaders from game to game, it definitely a real positive for this team,” Dunn said.

Therefore, opponents don’t just have Douglas and Catchings to fear. Every Fever player on the floor is capable of producing offense and making the big play, including veteran Tully Bevilaqua, who recorded the game-sealing steal at Madison Square Garden last Friday and knocked down three 3-pointers on Saturday.

Another WNBA veteran valuable to the Fever cause is Tamecka Dixon. Whether it be to jumpstart her team or to provide fresh defense off the bench, Dixon says she is willing to do “whatever’s necessary.”

“I come in, and I’m there to provide a steady balance,” Dixon said. “I’m there as a stabilizing presence, and I do what I have to do when I get there.”

From the rookies to the experienced veterans, the teamwork and versatility of the Indiana Fever are what have made the team a powerful force in the league. Even with early-season roster moves, the team has found its chemistry and looks to continue its hot streak all the way into the playoffs.

“From one to 11, we’re really deep,” Dixon said. “We believe in each other. Our trust is there. And that leaves the door open for different people to make heroic plays at different times.”

Ultimately, there isn’t just one reason that the Indiana Fever is flourishing – there are 11.