Balance, key to Indiana streak

By Tom Rietmann

INDIANAPOLIS -- When coach Lin Dunn is asked to cite the most influential factor in the Indiana Fever's current five-game winning streak, she doesn't hesitate.

Balance.

“There are two things when I say balance,” Dunn noted. “For one, it's the balance of our inside-outside game. We've really worked to establish our low-block game with (Jessica) Davenport as the focal point. And when Tammy (Sutton-Brown) comes in, we're still looking to attack in the paint.

“And the second thing,” the coach continued, “is the balance between our bench and the starters. We're getting contributions from 10 people, not just three.”

Indiana (8-3) sits atop the WNBA Eastern Conference as the team prepares for Saturday night's arrival of the Washington Mystics (2-7) at Conseco Fieldhouse. No team in the league is hotter than the Fever. Perhaps no team is playing with more confidence.

As Dunn pointed out, the play of Davenport and Sutton-Brown in the paint is a major reason. During the five-game streak, the two have combined for 20, 21, 15, 33 and 20 points. Davenport alone has scored 18, nine, eight, 25 and 15.

With that kind of production from the center position, it opens up space for the Fever's outside shooters. Indiana is second in the WNBA in 3-point percentage, hitting 38.9. Katie Douglas is at 50.9 percent and leads the league with 29 made 3-pointers. Rookie Jeanette Pohlen is at 57.7 percent.

As for Dunn's second point about the balance between the Fever starters and reserves, the numbers clearly support her statements. Indiana has had nine different players score in double figures this season, including five reserves.

The winning streak started at Washington on June 21, when the bench players accounted for 52 of Indiana's 89 points. The reserves followed that with outputs of 31, 24, 17 and 26. In Tuesday's 17-point victory over defending WNBA champion Seattle, the subs combined to hit an efficient 9-of-14 shots.

“I've never been here when we've had a bench this strong, and that just continues to grow,” said Dunn, in her eighth season as an Indiana assistant or head coach.

Fever reserves such as Shavonte Zellous, Pohlen and Sutton-Brown could probably be starters on another WNBA team.

“That sends a message (about) the strength of your bench,” Dunn said. “If you have players on your bench who couldn't even begin to challenge anywhere else as a starter, then it's not strong enough.”

           
Smith enjoys strong game vs. Seattle         

Dunn was happy to see Fever forward Tangela Smith hit 4-of-7 shots and score 10 points in the victory over Seattle. Smith, who is in her 14th WNBA season and ranks among the league's all-time top scorers and rebounders, had hit just 5-of-40 from the field in the previous six games.

“It seemed like she kind of lost a little bit of confidence in her shot and was hesitating,” Dunn said. “She's a shooter. I think sometimes when you miss a shot or two, or maybe three in a row, you get a little gun-shy. What we want her to do is: If you're open, shoot it, and don't worry about it. I thought that's what she did better against Seattle.”

Phillips gets athletic ability from her dad
           
Indiana point guard Erin Phillips has fond memories of growing up in Australia and watching her father, Greg, play professionally in Australian rules football. Greg, who is now coaching the sport, is a member of the game's hall of fame in Australia.

“My dad was fierce on the field, but at home he was a gentle giant,” Erin said after Thursday's Fever practice.

Erin is the youngest of Greg's three daughters. Erin, Rachel and Amy would attend practices with their dad, play on the sidelines and sometimes even jump into the team's hot tub.

Erin plans to see her family in mid-September, when they visit Indianapolis. And she wants to be sure the family has a chance to see her play for Indiana, which finishes the regular season on Sept. 11.

“We gotta keep winning so we're in the (WNBA) Finals,” she said.