Indiana Crazy Over Zellous

Oct 20 2012 2:03AM

Shavonte Zellous' 30 points has the Fever 40 minutes away from a WNBA title.
Jesse D. Garrabrant//NBAE/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLS, IND. -- After hitting a jumper from the top of the key late in the third quarter, Indiana guard Shavonte Zellous raced back to the other end of the court with her arms extended, gesturing with her hands to the fans to cheer.

She was smiling. In fact, a smile appeared as part of the Fever uniform on Friday night as at this juncture they were well on their way to dismantling the defending champs, 76-59, in front of a raucous, sellout crowd announced at over 18,000 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals to take a decisive 2-1 lead in the series.

Yeah, for the Fever, this was one was fun.

Zellous, who scored a career-high 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting, had to go all the way back to her playing days at the University of Pittsburgh to remember when she enjoyed herself that much on a basketball court.

“The last time I think I had that much fun was in college, my senior against Florida when I had 42 or 44,” said Zellous of a game in 2009. “That was a lot of fun -- back at home playing in front of my family, don’t like the Gators too much, so that was just something.”

This was something else.

Zellous scored 28 of her 30 points in the second quarter and beyond including a stretch in the second and third quarter where she scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including hitting all three of her attempts from behind the arc.

“I think tonight they were remiss in giving her some open looks and she got into a rhythm.” Indiana Head Coach Lin Dunn said of Zellous. “Then, it was too late.”

At one point, in large part due to Zellous’ lights-out shooting, the Fever were beating the Lynx by 37 points. At 70-33 with 1:58 left to go in the third quarter, the so-called undermanned Fever had inexplicably more than doubled up a team, the defending champs, that has three gold medalists on its star-studded roster.

The margin was so unfathomable that even the players couldn’t believe it.

“I looked up at the score and I couldn’t believe it, thinking I couldn’t add properly,” said Indiana guard Erin Phillips.

While their play alone was enough to get the Fever excited, the Indiana crowd, decked out in red, gave them that little something extra.

“When you have a crowd like that behind you, you just feel the extra momentum,” Zellous said. “That’s your sixth man, so when you get a defensive stop or someone scores on offense or does something incredible, you got your crowd back behind you. It fires you up.”

With Zellous’ play of late, the 5-foot-10 guard has helped the team overcome the absence of Katie Douglas, their second-leading scorer who has been sidelined with a sprained ankle. Since Douglas went down in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Zellous has averaged 16 points in the last four games, just a half-point shy of Douglas’ regular season average.

“Everybody can contribute,” Indiana guard Briann January said. “Everybody has put in the work all season. We have the most confidence in everyone here and we have gotten this far together. It hasn’t been one person who has led us the entire season, everybody has contributed and I think that’s what makes our team tough.”

Zellous, obviously, wasn’t the only member of the Fever to step up in this eye-opening victory. Forward Erlana Larkins, after a quiet Game 2, replicated her performance in Game 1 by grabbing 15 rebounds, once again tied for second all-time in WNBA Finals history.

“She’s one heckuva player on the boards,” Zellous said of Larkins. “You can send two, three people on her and she’s going to fight you until she gets that rebound and you’ve seen it tonight.”

Dunn pointed to these two players – “E and Z” as she called them – as the team MVPs tonight. And, fact of the matter is, they motivated each other.

“She did everything we discussed,” Larkins said of Zellous. “She told me that I had to get a double-double and I told her that she at least had to score 10 points. She did that times three tonight, and we appreciate that.”

As a team, the Fever did a commendable job at shutting down Minnesota’s big three, holding Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen to just 21 points combined on 8-for-24 shooting while forcing the trio to commit eight turnovers.

Indiana, rightfully so, is not expecting that kind of futility from those stars again, but Dunn made it clear after the game that she does not want to go back to Minnesota for Game 5.

While it may have seemed like a pipedream at the beginning of this series to think that Indiana could beat Minnesota in four games with a shorthanded roster, it’s efforts like the one they got tonight out of Zellous and Larkins that makes it only 40 minutes away.





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