Searching For Point Production

By Tom Rietmann | June 19, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- “We're defending well enough to win, but where can we get some points?”

With that one sentence, Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn capsulized her team's current dilemma and struggling start. The injury-depleted Fever is 1-7 as it heads into a four-game homestand that begins with Friday night's visit by Tulsa. Indiana, after winning its opener at San Antonio, has dropped seven straight games for the longest skid since the team's inaugural season in 2000.

The problem, as Dunn said, is finding points. The Fever's per-game average is 66.6, which is last in the WNBA and makes it the only team under 72. Indiana hasn't surpassed 68 in any of six June games.

The good news: Dunn said the team “is optimistic” that star forward Tamika Catchings will return this weekend from a back injury that kept her from playing the past two games. Catchings is averaging 16.8 points, and her presence in the lineup will undoubtedly provide a lift.

The bad news: Katie Douglas (back), Jessica Davenport (leg), Erin Phillips (knee) and Jeanette Pohlen (knee) will remain out. Using their scoring averages from a year ago, when the Fever captured the WNBA championship, those players represent more than 33 points a game that are now absent.

So the Fever must look elsewhere in its early 2013 search for scoring. Perhaps more points will come from forward Erlana Larkins, who's at 6.5 per game, or point guard Briann January, who's at 7.8. Larkins' usual focus is on screening and rebounding and January's is on playmaking, but the current situation dictates adjusting and adapting.

“I feel like we're getting shots, we're just not hitting them,” said Dunn, whose club's field goal percentage (.379) is last in the league. “I think sometimes when role players have to become more of a go-to player, sometimes they thrive on that and sometimes they don't.”

Karima Christmas is a former role player whose performance has surged as injuries hit her Fever teammates. She averaged 3.0 points per game in 2012 after moving to Indiana in a midseason trade. In the Fever's 76-60 loss at Atlanta on Tuesday, Christmas produced 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Karima Christmas is a perfect example of somebody who's getting better every game because she's playing 30-35 minutes,” Dunn said.

Forwards Jessica Breland and Jasmine Hassell and center Sasha Goodlett fall into a similar category. Playing for a defending league champion, they normally would see little or no action. But with Indiana's injury-wracked lineup, they are getting extra work at every practice and plenty of minutes in every game.

“It's a great opportunity for these players to earn a job in the WNBA,” Dunn said.