Fever tackles final week before opening playoff run as East’s top seed

September 9, 2009
In a season that began as a celebration of the franchise’s 10th anniversary, the Indiana Fever has topped expectations and put itself in position to win its first WNBA title.

The Fever, 21-10 with two road games still to play before the WNBA regular season ends Sunday, has already matched its franchise-record for wins. The club has captured the top playoff seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in its history. The Fever is widely regarded as the favorite to represent the East in the WNBA Finals, and its two biggest stars, Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, are top contenders to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Should the Fever successfully navigate the first two playoff rounds, it would be on the verge of bringing another major sports championship to the state and city that landed the franchise on June 7, 1999. The Indiana Pacers welcomed the NBA Finals to Indianapolis during Conseco Fieldhouse’s first season in 1999-00, and more recently, the Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI in 2007.

Along the Fever’s path toward earning that elusive title are two road games this week – at Chicago (Thursday) and Connecticut (Sunday) – and a pair of best-of-three series that will comprise the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals.

The East semifinals begin Sept. 16 at the site of the East’s No. 4 seed which is still to be determined. The Fever will host Game 2 of the series (Sept. 18 or 19) and, if necessary, Game 3 (Sept. 20 or 21). Final playoff dates and pairings will be announced at week’s end.

Through August 15, Indiana’s 20-5 record was not only the best in franchise history, it was challenging the best marks in league history. But two West Coast losses and a Katie Douglas injury produced a skid with five losses in six games.

Douglas, the local Indianapolis product (Perry Meridian HS and Purdue) and three-time All-Star obtained in a trade with her hometown team prior to the 2008 season, was having her best season when she sprained her left ankle on Aug. 29 against Sacramento. The Fever lost a nail-biter that night, then lost to West-leading Phoenix and defending champion Detroit in its only three-game losing streak of the summer.

Last Sunday, though, Douglas returned to the starting lineup. After she hit the game’s first basket and sparked the Fever to a 10-0 lead, Indiana regained its winning form with a 72-61 win over Washington.

In her finest season, Douglas leads the WNBA in scoring since the All-Star Break, pouring in an average of 20.4 points over her last 13 games. She ranks sixth overall with a career-high average of 17.4 points per game, but she is the league’s only player averaging 20 points or better after the All-Star Game on July 25.

With Douglas back in the active lineup alongside fellow MVP candidate and “all-everything” stat-stuffer Tamika Catchings, the Fever expects to regain the form that dominated the Eastern Conference during June, July and August.

A brief slide put behind them, the Fever hopes to use this week’s games as a tune-up for its ultimate quest – advance through the upcoming playoffs and bring a WNBA Championship to Indianapolis!

Tickets for the Eastern Conference Semifinals are on sale at FeverBasketball.com, the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (800) 745-3000. Indiana’s first home playoff game will be a Lucas Oil Family Night presented by The Indianapolis Star. With each ticket purchased, fans will receive a voucher redeemable for a free hot dog, chips, a soft drink and a T-shirt. A minimum purchase of four game tickets is required, beginning at $15 per seat.