Regaining their identity

By Tom Rietmann | August 2, 2010

In the wake of the Indiana Fever's two-game slide and fall from first place in the WNBA Eastern Conference, coach Lin Dunn gave her team a firm piece of advice on Monday.

“We have to remember what our identity is,” Dunn said. “Tremendous effort, tremendous energy, great team defense. That's how we overcome that we're not the tallest, we're not the longest, we're not the youngest, we're not the most athletic. We're not at the bottom, but we're not first in those things.

“I think we've relaxed a little from our identity,” Dunn added, “and I think we have to refocus on who we are.”

The Indiana players' opportunity to return to their old selves begins Tuesday night when the New York Liberty visits Conseco Fieldhouse. The Fever (16-9) holds second place in the conference, two games ahead of fourth-place New York (14-11). Indiana's pursuit of redemption will continue on Friday when No. 1 Atlanta (18-9) comes into the Fieldhouse.
While the Fever works to remember its old personality, the team will also try to erase a couple of hurtful losses from the memory banks. Indiana fell to third-place Washington (77-73) at home last Friday and was thumped at Atlanta (90-74) on Sunday. It marks the Fever's second two-game losing streak of the year after it opened the season with successive losses to the same two opponents.

Washington and Atlanta racked up weekend numbers that Indiana has seldom yielded. Washington shot 49.1 percent from the field, scored 40 points in the paint and outrebounded the home team by a whopping 44-21 margin. Atlanta shot 51 percent, scored 46 in the paint and collected 22 points off 21 Indiana turnovers.

“Atlanta played extremely tough on the defensive end and got easy turnovers, like we normally play,” Fever guard Katie Douglas said. “That's how they started getting their momentum and rhythm and confidence.”

Indiana is struggling at the offensive end, too. Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting at Atlanta, but the rest of the Indiana squad went 16-of-54 for a 29.6 mark. The Fever's shooting troubles weren't only on the perimeter. The team missed 25 of 31 shots in the paint.

“We have to get some balance with inside and outside,” Dunn said. “We have to get our post players back making some shots in the paint.”

Dunn provided another message for her team on Monday. It was crystal clear.

“I think Coach said it best today,” Douglas related after a spirited practice. “The season is all about a journey. It's not by any means a field trip. A one-weekend field trip isn't going to destroy a whole season. We need to refocus, regather, regroup.”    

Said Dunn after practice: “You can't panic when you lose two games against teams that are playoff teams both fighting to be the champion in the East.”

Now come the Liberty and guard Cappie Pondexter, who hit the Fever with 40 points in their last meeting, a game that Indiana managed to win 84-81 in New York.

“We have to do whatever it takes to get the ball out of her hands,” Catchings said about Pondexter.

After this week's two home games, the Fever plays five of its last seven regular-season games on the road. A reality check is at hand, starting with New York.

“We had a really good practice today,” Catchings said Monday. “After today's practice, everybody has to come out tomorrow with a lot more fire.”



MILESTONES AWAIT CATCHINGS, DOUGLAS

Catchings is on the verge of reaching some significant milestones that further prove her status as one of the all-time greats in the WNBA.

With her next steal, likely to come on Tuesday against New York, Catchings will become only the second player in WNBA history to reach 700. Ticha Penicheiro is the career leader in steals with 713.

Catchings also needs just one assist to become the 10th player in league history to collect 1,000. With that assist, as well as 31 more points, she will become the first player in the WNBA with 4,500 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

Catchings, who says she has worked on being patient and setting herself before field goal attempts, is shooting 49 percent this season, by far the best mark of her 10-year pro career.

Douglas needs only a pair of 3-point field goals to become just the fifth player in WNBA history to reach 500 in her career. Douglas has hit 40 percent or better from the 3-point arc in 14 of 25 games this season.