Series Preview: Indiana Fever vs. Washington Mystics
By Scott Stanchak,

Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
It appears as if the first-round matchup between the top-seeded Indiana Fever and fourth-seed Washington Mystics may come down to who�s healthier. Both teams have been without their star players along the final stretch of the season, and that has translated into more losses than wins.

The Fever (22-12) have to hope their recent string of bad games doesn�t carry into the playoffs. They�ve lost five of their last seven; however, they have won all four games against Washington (16-18) this season.

One of the reasons for this slump is they�ve been playing without guard Katie Douglas and center Tammy Sutton-Brown. Douglas (17.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) has been nursing an ankle injury, while Sutton-Brown (9.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is plagued by a bad toe. Both, however, are expected to play.

Then, on Sunday, forwards Tamika Catchings, who along with Douglas were All-Stars this season, and Jessica Moore were pulled from their game against the Connecticut Sun with injuries. Catchings (15.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) hit heads with Sun guard Tan White. Later, Moore suffered a hyperextended knee. Their status for Thursday�s game is uncertain.

Gm 1: at Washington., Thur., 9/17, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 2: at Indiana, Sat., 9/19, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Gm 3*: at Indiana, Mon., 9/21, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
There are a few positives for the Fever heading into this series, including the leadership abilities of guard Tully Bevilaqua (6.1 ppg, 2.1 spg). The Aussie native already has one title from 2004 while playing for the Seattle Storm. Catchings has said that Bevilaqua�s championship experience has led to valuable advice for her 10 teammates. The Fever have also received strong contributions from forward Ebony Hoffman (9.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), as well as guards Briann January (6.9 ppg, 2.3 apg) and Tamecka Dixon (4.1 ppg) off the bench.

For Washington, All-Star guard Alana Beard is critical to their success. Beard, however, has only appeared in two of the team�s last six games after experiencing an ankle sprain. She is almost certain to take the floor. Pair her with fellow guard Lindsey Harding (12.8 ppg, 4.5 apg) and the Mystics have one of the top backcourts in the WNBA.

The Mystics� frontcourt is made up of Crystal Langhorne (12 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Monique Currie (8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Chasity Melvin (5.9 ppg, 4.6 rpt). Langhorne has emerged as one of the top rebounders in the league this year. Guard Matee Ajavon (8 ppg) and forward Nakia Sanford (6.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) have also played key roles off the bench.

The Fever have made the playoffs five consecutive years, two times resulting in trips to the conference finals. Last season, the first under the watch of head coach Lin Dunn, Indiana was sent packing after a first-round loss to the Detroit Shock, who went on to win the title. Over that same five-year span, the Mystics have been to just one postseason and have just one trip to the conference finals in the franchise�s 12-year history.

Two teams, both trying to win their first championship and only one can move on. The victor may just be whichever one has the cleanest injury report when it�s all said and done.

2009 Regular Season: Indiana 4, Washington 0
Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
  • Neither team has ever made a trip to the WNBA Finals.
  • This is Washington coach Julie Plank's first season as a professional head coach.
  • Catchings has averaged 20.5 points over the four games against Washington.
  • Harding has scored at least 10 points in each meeting.
  • Mann played for the Fever last season, while Eshaya Murphy played for the Mystics.
  • Bevilaqua has one title and Dixon has two from her time with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Tuesday, July 21. Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.: Fever 82, Mystics 70 | Box score | Highlights
Washington Leaders: Lindsey Harding (17 pts., 6 ast.), Alana Beard (13 pts., 9 reb.)
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (28 pts., 10 reb.), Tammy Sutton-Brown (16 pts., 9 reb.)

Tuesday, July 28, AT&T Center. Indianapolis, IN.: Fever 85, Mystics 81 | Box score
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (34 pts., 9 reb.), Ebony Hoffman (10 pts., 10 reb.)
Washington Leaders: Alana Beard (19 pts., 5 reb.), Crystal Langhorne (11 pts., 8 reb.)

Sunday, August 2, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.: Fever 87, Mystics 79 | Box score | Highlights
Washington Leaders: Alana Beard (23 pts., 4 reb.), Lindsey Harding (22 pts., 4 ast.)
Indiana Leaders: Katie Douglas (24 pts., 3 ast.), Tamika Catchings (19 pts., 9 reb.)

Sunday, September 6, AT&T Center. Indianapolis, IN: Fever 72, Mystics 61 | Box score | Highlights
Indiana Leaders: Tamika Catchings (20 pts., 8 reb.), Tammy Sutton-Brown (13 pts., 11 reb.)
Washington Leaders: Crystal Langhorne (13 pts., 7 reb.), Nakia Sanford (7 pts., 10 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position
Tully Bevilaqua, G, Fever
6.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG
Note: Ranks second in the league in steals (62)
Alana Beard, G, Mystics
15.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Finished 10th in the league in points per game
Katie Douglas, G, Fever
17.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.7 APG
Note: Ranks sixth overall in points per game
Lindsey Harding, G, Mystics
4.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.5 APG
Note: Finished first in the league in minutes played (1194)
Tamika Catchings, F, Fever
15.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.1 APG
Note: Finished first in steals per game (2.91)
Monique Currie, F, Mystics
8.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 APG
Note: Ranked 15th overall in free throws taken (102)
Ebony Hoffman, F, Fever
9.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 APG
Note: Finished ninth in the league in steals (57)
Chasity Melvin, F, Mystics
5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 APG
Note: Ranked fourth-overall in offensive rebounds (79)
Tammy Sutton-Brown, C, Fever
9.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 BPG
Note: Finished fifth overall in blocks per game
Crystal Langhorne, C, Mystics
12 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 0.9 APG
Note: Ranked third overall in rebounds per game