Series Preview: Indiana (2) vs. Washington (3)
|Game 1||Thu, August 21||Washington at Indiana||7:00PM||ESPN2|
|Game 2||Sat, August 23||Indiana at Washington||5:00PM||ESPN2|
|Game 3*||Mon, August 25||Washington at Indiana||TBD||NBA TV|
Indiana and Washington come in about as evenly matched as two teams possibly could. Both finished the regular season with a 16-18 record. They sport identical 5-5 marks over their past 10 games. And in the four-game series between them this season, each team won – you guessed it – twice.
The similarities don’t end there. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league in terms of scoring, yet excel on the defensive end. The Mystics were ninth in the league in scoring, having averaged 74.27 points over the course of the season, just 0.12 more per game than the Fever. The numbers, however, look better on defense. The Mystics actually surrendered a league-low 73.8 points per game, compared to 75.1 for the Fever (3rd in the league).
In addition, both teams have legendary coaches in Lin Dunn for Indiana and Mike Thibault for Washington. Dunn, who is retiring at the end of this season, boasts a WNBA title on her expansive resume while Thibault is the league’s all-time wins leader.
So, what distinguishes these two teams?
|Fever (Rank)||Stat||Mystics (Rank)|
|74.15 (10)||PPG||74.27 (9)|
|32.27 (10)||RPG||35.38 (2)|
|14.21 (11)||APG||16.97 (6)|
|41.8% (11)||FG%||42.5% (9)|
|34.6% (3)||3FG%||31.7% (8)|
|75.12 (3)||OPP PPG||73.82 (1)|
|44.3% (8)||OPP FG%||41.2% (2)|
|30.5% (2)||OPP 3FG%||31.8% (5)|
Indiana: For over a decade, the headliner on the Fever has been Tamika Catchings. One of the league’s all-time greats and arguably the best two-way player ever, Catchings, even at 35 years old, is the dominant player in this series. On the season she averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds despite missing the season’s first 17 games with a sore back.
Washington: Emma Meesseman is one of the league's best kept secrets. One of the most improved players in 2014, the 6-foot-4 center has dramatically increased her production in her second season. On the year, she averaged 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. Her matchup with Indiana's Erlana Larkins in the post will be one to keep an eye on.
15 – Ivory Latta led the Mystics in scoring at 12.8 points per game – the lowest total of any of the 12 team leaders. When she scored 15 points or more, however, the Mystics were a substantially better team. In the 12 games where Latta scored 15 or more, the Mystics went 9-3 (.750). In the 22 games she did not, they went 7-15 (.318).
Latta will not have an easy go of it against Indiana which boasts several strong perimeter defenders, including opposing point guard Briann January, who was named a Second Team All-Defense selection last season.
Fever Experience: The Fever surround Catchings with a battle-tested supporting cast. The most notable are Briann January (10.3PPG), Erlana Larkins (9.2RPG) and Shavonte Zellous (11.0PPG), all of which played key roles in the Fever’s 2012 title run.
Coaching: This is about as good as it gets when it comes to coaching matchups, but the job Mike Thibault did with the Mystics this year cannot be understated. Despite trading away arguably the team's best player in Crystal Langhorne on Draft Day this past year, Thibault took a young team back to the Playoffs and molded them into the the stingiest defensive team in the league. Thibault routinely gets the most out of his players, and this series will be no different.
While much of the media attention for this series will be pointed towards Lin Dunn and her legacy, the legendary coach vows "all we're thinking about is Washington."