Series Preview: (1) Indiana Fever vs. (3) Atlanta Dream

Sep 21 2011 7:59AM

Which team will win the Eastern Conference Finals between Indiana and Atlanta?
Which team will win the Eastern Conference Finals between Indiana and Atlanta?
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Game 1: Atlanta at Indiana
Thu Sept. 22, 8 ET, ESPN2
Game 2: Indiana at Atlanta
Sun Sept. 25, 4 ET, ESPN2
Game 3*: Atlanta at Indiana
Tue Sept. 27, TBD, TBD
* if necessary
On their way to earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Fever won their season series with five teams, split with five others and lost their series to just one team. Of course, that one team happens to be their opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals - the defending conference champions from Atlanta.

The Dream not only won the season series with the Fever, they swept it four games to none. The schedule definitely benefited the Dream, as none of their games with the Fever took place during their horrid 3-9 start to the season that saw All-Star Angel McCoughtry nursing a knee injury and former All-Star Sancho Lyttle out of the lineup due to international commitments and injury.

But once the Dream got everyone back and healthy, they were a force to be reckoned with, going 17-5 over the final two months of the season to climb to the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Dream were also the only team to sweep its first-round series, eliminating Connecticut in two games despite having to open the series on the road as the lower seed.

Being the lower seed in a playoff series is nothing new for Atlanta, which made its run to the WNBA Finals as the No. 4 seed a year ago. The Fever have home-court advantage in this series and only lost four games at Conseco Fieldhouse this season, but two of those came at the hands of the Dream.

If Atlanta hopes for similar success in this series, they will need McCoughtry to break out of her current shooting slump, which saw her average just 14.0 points (down 7.3 points from her season average) while shooting .273 from the field (compared to her season average of .424) in the first round. But the fact that the Dream were able to sweep the Sun with McCoughtry not at the top of her game demonstrates the depth and balance that this team possesses.

The combination of Lyttle and Erika de Souza in the middle wreaked havoc on the Sun and will challenge the Fever bigs of Tammy Sutton-Brown, Jessica Davenport and Tangela Smith, who is more of a perimeter player despite her height. In the season series, the Dream won the battle of the boards in three out of the four games. The rebounding battle will be key in this matchup as it fuels Atlanta's offense, either with second chance points on offensive rebounds or leading to fast break points on the other end with their tremendous team speed.

The Dream were the highest scoring team in the East and second overall with an average of 82.5 points per game. On the flip side, the Fever were the top defensive team in the conference, allowing just 73.8 points per game, setting up a battle of offense against defense in this series.

Not that the Fever can't score the rock themselves. They averaged 77.7 points per game this season, ranking them third in the East and fifth overall in the WNBA, and are paced by the All-Star duo of Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings. Douglas, who averaged 13.9 points during the regular season has found her shot over the past month, averaging 19.2 points over her past 10 games and 22.0 points during the Conference Semis.

"The big thing for me is my mentality, and I've made a conscious effort tot be a in a very attack mode offensively," said Douglas on Tuesday. "That�s been really critical and crucial for me to have this kind of success to stay in this mentality."

As for Catchings, outside of her dismal Game 2 performance against New York, she has been consistent on both ends of the floor, averaging a team-high 15.5 points during the regular season, including a 21.3 points average in three games against the Dream. Catchings will also draw the assignment of checking McCoughtry on defense, which promises to be a great duel to watch during this series.

Some fast facts about the Conference Finals matchup:
  • The Fever and Dream are the last two teams to represent the Eastern Conference in the WNBA Finals, although neither was victorious. The Fever lost to the Mercury in five games in 2009, while the Dream were swept by the Storm in 2010.
  • Indiana lost point guard Briann January early in the season to an ACL tear and was replaced in the starting lineup by Erin Phillips, who had a great showing in the Conference Semis, hitting the game-winner in Game 1 and collecting five steals in Game 3.
  • The series features five international players with Australian Erin Phillips and Canadian Tammy Sutton-Brown with the Fever and Brazilians Erika de Souza and Iziane Castro Marques, along with Sancho Lyttle of the West Indies with the Dream.
  • The Fever finished with the second-best home record in the East (13-4), while the Dream finished with the best road record in the conference (9-8)
  • The Dream offense ranked first in the East (82.50 points per game). Conversely the Fever defense ranked first in the conference (73.82 points per game allowed)

2011 Regular Season: Atlanta 4, Indiana 0

Tuesday, July 19, 2011, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA: Dream 84, Indiana 74 | Box score | Highlights
Atlanta Leaders: Lindsey Harding (19 pts, 5 reb), Erika de Souza (15 pts, 11 reb)
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (22 pts, 8 reb), Erin Phillips (21 pts, 3 reb)

Saturday, August 27, 2011, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN: Dream 86, Indiana 80 | Box score | Highlights
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (20 pts, 3 reb), Lindsey Harding (17 pts, 7 reb)
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (22 pts, 3 reb), Tangela Smith (15 pts, 4 reb)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA: Dream 92, Indiana 90 | Box score | Highlights
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (28 pts, 7 reb), Sancho Lyttle (14 pts, 11 reb)
Indiana Leaders: Erin Phillips (21 pts, 3 reb), Tamika Catchings (20 pts, 7 reb)

Sunday, September 11, 2011, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN: Dream 93, Indiana 88 | Box score | Highlights
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (32 pts, 5 reb), Alison Bales (15 pts, 11 reb)
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (30 pts, 3 ast), Jessica Davenport (15 pts, 9 reb)

See how the teams match up position by position
Note: All statistics are from regular season.

Lindsey Harding, G, Dream
10.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
Note: First season with dream, led team in assists
Erin Phillips, G, Fever
8.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.4 APG
Note: Set a career high for pts in 2011
Armintie Price, G, Dream
8.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.8 APG
Note: Earned career-high in PPG
Katie Douglas, G, Fever
13.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.8 APG
Note: Attempted a season-high 11 3-pt vs. NYL on 6/10
Angel McCoughtry, F, Dream
21.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG
Note: MVP candidate, second in WNBA in PPG
Tamika Catchings, F, Fever
15.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.5 APG
Note: Ranked 8th in total pts, 9th in reb in WNBA in 2011
Sancho Lyttle, F, Dream
10.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG
Note: Team leader in rebounds
Tangela Smith, F, Fever
7.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
Note: Has averaged 11.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg in 44 career playoff games
Erika de Souza, C, Dream
11.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Note: Has started every game that she has played over last 3 years
Tammy Sutton-Brown, C, Fever
5.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Note: Has reached the playoffs for 5 straight seasons

Western Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals

Eastern Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals