INDIANA AT CONNECTICUT
Date: Friday, October 5
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Site: Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, Conn.)
Radio: 1070 The Fan
Webcast: Live on ESPN3.com
• The Fever and Sun will battle as the East’s top two seeds in the best-of-three-game Eastern Conference Finals. The winner will advance to the WNBA Finals to meet either Minnesota or Los Angeles.
• Indiana has reached the conference finals for the second straight season and the fifth time in the past eight years. In fact, it also is Connecticut’s fifth trip to the conference finals, though the Sun has not reached this stage of the playoffs since 2006. The Fever is seeking its second trip to the WNBA Finals, while the Sun is in search of its third.
• Ironically, since the Fever and Sun battled in an epic first-round series in 2007, the clubs have not met in the playoffs – with Indiana dueling against Atlanta, Detroit, New York and Washington in Eastern playoff matchups since that time. In that memorable 2007 series, Katie Douglas was the Sun’s top scorer while playing against her hometown team. The Sun beat Indiana in a triple-overtime decision in a Game 1 that featured 20 rebounds from Tamika Catchings – in her first game back from missing the final month of the regular season. The Fever rebounded to capture Game 2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and, upon falling behind by 22 in Game 3, Indiana staged the biggest comeback in WNBA Playoffs history to beat the Sun and advance to the conference finals.
• The Fever reached the East Finals this season by avenging last season’s playoff exit at the hands of the Atlanta Dream. Just like its 2007 series against Connecticut, Indiana lost Game 1, but won Games 2 & 3 to survive and advance. The Fever changed its starting lineup in Game 2 of last week’s conference semifinal series – inserting Erin Phillips and Erlana Larkins in place of Shavonte Zellous and Tammy Sutton-Brown.
• Connecticut reached the East Finals by sweeping the New York Liberty in two games, 65-60 and 75-62.
• Erlana Larkins responded with a pair outstanding performances in the Atlanta series. She posted playoff career highs with 16 points and seven points in Game 2, the first start of her playoff career. In Game 3, she again produced 16 points while adding a whopping 20 rebounds to tie the franchise playoff mark by Tamika Catchings. The 20 rebounds also is the second-best playoff figure in WNBA history.
• With just one free throw, Tamika Catchings will become the WNBA’s all-time leader in playoff free throws made. With five FTs against the Dream last Tuesday, she tied Lisa Leslie as the all-time leader with 202.
• Katie Douglas, meanwhile, also is tied with Leslie, for all-time playoff games played (52). Douglas, the only player in league history to make playoff appearances in 10 consecutive seasons, will match Vickie Johnson (53) by playing in Friday’s game. Only Taj McWilliams-Franklin (59) and Becky Hammon (58) have appeared in more playoff games.
• Game 2 of the East Finals is Monday, Oct. 8 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (8 p.m., ESPN2). A potential Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 11 at Connecticut.
Players To Watch
Fever – Erlana Larkins & Tamika Catchings
All eyes will be on Erlana Larkins Friday night, following the monumental impact she had on helping the Fever past Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. But a bigger matchup presents itself against the Sun as Larkins will match up against 2012 MVP Tina Charles. Will Larkins continue to fight and scrap for rebounds as she did against the Dream? Or might her efforts open more room for Tamika Catchings to operate under the boards?
Sun – Tina Charles
Charles had 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Sun’s clinching game against New York last week. She averaged 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds during the regular season, presenting a matchup problem with Fever post players all season long.
Fever - F -Tamika Catchings, F - Katie Douglas, C - Erlana Larkins, G - Erin Phillips, G - Briann January
Sun - F- Asjha Jones, F-Kalana Greene, C -Tina Charles, G - Allison Hightower, G - Kara Lawson
Fever vs. Dream - The Indiana Fever responded to Atlanta's physical play by pushing back and overpowering the Dream. Katie Douglas scored 24 points and Erlana Larkins had 16 points and 20 rebounds to help the Fever beat the Dream 75-64 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Tamika Catchings added 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and Briann January also scored 16 points for the Fever, who recovered from a Game 1 loss at home to win the best-of-3 series against the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions. Larkins was one of the main reasons the Fever handled the Dream's aggressive style. She didn't become a starter until two games remained in the regular season, then she took it a step further in the playoffs. Larkins averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the series while shooting 71 percent from the field.
Sun vs. Liberty – Kara Lawson didn't get discouraged after missing some 3-point shots she felt she should have made. She knew she would hit some if she kept shooting. Tina Charles had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Lawson scored 15 points - all on 3s, including two late in the fourth quarter - as the Connecticut Sun closed with a 14-0 run to beat the New York Liberty 75-62 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Lawson hit a 3 with 3:58 left start the Sun's game-ending run. She was fouled and converted the free throw for the four-point play that put the Sun ahead for good, 65-62. Plenette Pierson had just rallied New York from a five-point deficit, scoring with 4:20 left to put the Liberty ahead 62-61. After Asjha Jones hit a jumper with just under 3 minutes remaining to push Connecticut's advantage to six, Lawson made another 3 to make it 70-62. Jones scored 18 points to help the Sun complete the two-game sweep.
Connecticut beat the Fever three out of four times during the 2012 regular season, but it is the first playoff meeting between the clubs since 2007. The Fever is 2-3 all-time against Connecticut in the playoffs and is in search of its first playoff win at Mohegan Sun Arena, falling once in a conference semifinal series in 2005 and again during a triple-overtime thriller, 93-88, in the 2007 conference semifinals. The series will forever be noted for the 2007 three-game series which began with triple-overtime in Game 1 and ended with the biggest comeback in playoff history in Game 3.