Phillips, Catchings ready for playoffs

By Tom Rietmann

INDIANAPOLIS -- Point guard Erin Phillips sat out the Indiana Fever's final two regular-season games with a sprained ankle, but there's little chance the gritty Australian will miss her team's playoff opener.

Not in light of what's at stake. And not with Phillips' parents in the United States for the first time since 2006 to see her play a WNBA game.

“It'll be like 100 percent to me,” Phillips said, referring to how she expects to feel when Indiana hosts New York in Thursday's opening game of their best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinal series. “It's all in or nothing. There's a feeling of adrenalin about playoffs.”

The Fever provided updates on a number of injury fronts after Tuesday's practice. The most worrisome for Indiana concerned guard Shavonte Zellous, who was said to be “out indefinitely” with a high ankle sprain. Star forward Tamika Catchings, who sat out the final regular-season game with a slight knee sprain and rested for most of  Tuesday's practice, declared she will be ready for New York.

“NOdoubt,” Catchings added for emphasis.

As for Phillips, the Fever needs her to be ready, too. Since replacing an injured Briann January as the starter in the 11th game, Phillips has built averages of 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Her floor leadership and toughness are valuable assets.

“Erin practiced for 30 or 35 minutes and I thought she moved real well,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. “She seems real positive about it. Having her back is huge for us, especially with the possibility we don't have (Zellous).”

Phillips used the Fever's day off on Monday to meet her parents at the airport and take them on a tour of Indianapolis. Greg Phillips is a former professional Australian Rules Football star who is now coaching the sport in Australia. Erin grew up watching her father play and seeing how he dealt with injuries.

The Fever guard said her parents' last visit for a WNBA game was her rookie year with the Connecticut Sun. This time, Phillips added, their visit will be “absolutely special.”

 

TANGELA SMITH JOINS ELITE GROUP

The milestone was overshadowed by the Fever's season-ending loss to Atlanta, but Indiana forward Tangela Smith joined an elite group of WNBA players on Sunday night. Smith's 14-point performance against the Dream gave her 5,011 in her 14-year career. Only seven other players have scored 5,000 points.

“It's definitely something I'm putting in my memory book,” Smith said. “I feel very privileged to have done it. It's an honor.”

With the playoffs at hand, Smith goes in pursuit of her third WNBA championship ring. She won in 2007 and 2009 with the Phoenix Mercury. Smith, who will be playing in the ninth postseason of her career, is the only current Fever player with a WNBA championship.

 

JEANETTE POHLEN MAKES HER MARK

Nobody on the Fever team works more on shooting than rookie Jeanette Pohlen. After every practice, she's putting in extra time, moving around the 3-point arc, lofting shots as Fever assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg tosses passes.

It paid off for the former Stanford standout. She connected on 29-of-62 from 3-point range in 2011, recording a .468 mark that led the WNBA.

“It does kind of mean a lot to me,” said Pohlen, who noted she began developing as an accurate shooter just before her college career began. “It shows me and shows everyone how far I've come as a shooter. It's kind of cool to think about.”

Pohlen labeled her first year in the WNBA as a “good” experience. She said the leadership provided by Indiana's veterans was something that made it special.

What's in store for Pohlen as her WNBA career continues?

“I'm not just a 3-point shooter. I want people to see that in the future,” said Pohlen, who averaged 4.1 points and 1.4 rebounds. “I just want to continue getting better.”