MINNESOTA COACH CHERYL REEVE
COACH REEVE: Indiana played great. Played like a team that didn’t want their season to end. Played with great pace. They had to be thrilled with their offense, in particular, just the way that they came at us. Frankly, it probably started with their defense. We started early in the game with silly turnovers. They were very opportunistic.
Had a decent first quarter for us, and then it just kind of went downhill after that, but Indiana turned it up. I mean, they had one player outshoot us. Briann January outshot us at the free throw line. We had 9 free throws, she had 12. That’s not good for us. 26 free throws, and it was all Indiana just creating a pace, doing what they do, straight line drives. Straight line drives. Our defense was not as good as we need to be.
Q. Cheryl, despite the defensive show, in the fourth quarter they had one basket. You guys were fouling on purpose, obviously. Just talk about your defense in the first seven minutes of that
COACH REEVE: We finally decided to try to get after it. We identified before the game that, in order to win a Championship, we had to play great defense. Just play great defense. And we just didn’t get that done until we had that sense of urgency in the fourth quarter. Too late. It’s too late at that point. It gave us a chance.
But had we kind of had that sense of urgency and activity early in the game, that would have been better for us.
Q. Coach, the game was pretty evenly contested up until about the three or four minute mark of the third quarter. And then the momentum completely shifted to the Fever. What happened in that moment that created that complete shift?
COACH REEVE: We couldn’t get stops. We couldn’t get stops. I thought that they just, again, were very persistent, had great flow to their offense. They had to be thrilled with the way their offensive schemes worked out for them.
We weren’t good in one on one defense. We weren’t good in help defense, and they were getting to the rim. That’s what they do, one to five feet. Indiana was the second best team all season, shots up from one to five feet. And that leads to opportunities at the foul line and leads to offensive rebound opportunities. It’s just not good for your defense when you let a team get that deep, and Indiana was very, very persistent in that area.
Q. Cheryl, how did the foul trouble on Sylvia Fowles affect your ability to defend the paint? As you noted, Indiana was able to get those short lane shots with impunity.
COACH REEVE: I’ll state the obvious. Sylvia being in foul trouble affected our ability to defend the paint.
Q. I think this is the fourth Game 5, and you were part of two of them with Detroit. I know you probably wanted to close it out, but from a league standpoint, this is a pretty big showcase.
COACH REEVE: Yeah, it’s been a great series. It’s absolutely been a great series. Four really, really hard fought games. Why not go to Game 5? It’s been that good of a series. It’s one of those things that people like to see. I think it’s good for the game. Good to have eyes on our product right now because there’s a lot of great things to watch and a lot of great people out there, putting it all out there.
Compete for a championship. This is the epitome of it. You’re seeing passion on display. You’re seeing great athleticism and teamwork and all that good stuff. It’s only fitting that we go to five games.
INDIANA COACH STEPHANIE WHITE
COACH WHITE: Just extremely proud of our team. The heart that they’ve shown all season long, the unselfishness that they’ve shown all season long, the togetherness that they’ve built throughout this season, it’s just been incredible to watch this team go from where we started to where we are right now.
It’s been a lot of fun. We came out tonight again with our back against the wall, and for 35 minutes we did everything we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win. Obviously, not happy with the last five minutes, but it’s a growing experience. It’s a learning experience for us, and we’re just lucky to be able to escape and be able to live to fight another day.
Q. I don’t know about your halftime speech, but your first time out third quarter speech must have been pretty good. What happened there in that stretch where you guys really took control?
COACH WHITE: I just really challenged our team. I felt like our energy was terrible. Our attention to detail was worse. We were fumbling the ball. Nobody was sure about anything we were doing. So I just challenged them. Do you want to see the opponent hoisting up a trophy on our home floor, or do you want to fight, and do you want to compete, and do you want to do everything we’ve done to put ourselves in this position?
Fortunately, they responded. It’s tough. You’re playing against a great opponent. You can’t afford to have moments like that because they capitalize and they make you pay for that, and we can’t afford to do it.
Q. Stephanie, talk to us about the character of this team, a team that most folks outside of the city of Indianapolis didn’t believe could get to this point, especially during the middle of the season. Talk to us about what you’ve seen, the growth and development of this team.
COACH WHITE: Well, I’ve seen a team that, first and foremost, has a hunger to play for each other. There are games where some people don’t get in. There are games where players play more than others. There are games when players play different positions. There are games where we’ve faced so much adversity with injuries.
And this team has been so unselfish throughout this entire season, and they’re in it for the greater good of the team. That’s why we’re here because of the selflessness, because of the sacrifice, because of all 12 of our players. That’s why we’re here. Had we had one or two that complained about not playing or get a little bit selfish throughout the season, then we’re not here.
And Tamika Catchings has a heart of a champion. And Tamika Catchings refuses to lose. And this team has really taken on that identity, and this team, every single player on this team has improved dramatically as the season has went on.
Q. Steph, if someone told you you’d have one basket in the fourth quarter
COACH WHITE: Is that all we had?
Q. That’s all you had.
COACH WHITE: Oh, my God.
Q. Would you have thought you’d have won this game?
COACH WHITE: Never, never, never.
Q. Coach, could you discuss Briann January’s ability to get to the line tonight.
COACH WHITE: Yeah, we wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to be aggressive going north south. The last game, we were too much east west. So we really challenged Bri to be in attack mode. Her decision making for most of this series has been very good. She’s attacked to score. She’s found her open teammates.
She really did a good job tonight. She wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well. Had a couple of decisions at times that were a little scary. But she did attack with an aggressive mindset and so allowed herself to get to the foul line.
Q. Coach, one thing that you and Minnesota have in common is tremendous local support. If there’s a person in Indianapolis who’s unaware that the fever were fighting to stay alive for a championship tonight, I’ve been yet met them. How do you cultivate that kind of support, and what can other teams do to bring that?
COACH WHITE: Wow, that’s a tough one. I just think that our fans first of all, our organization does a tremendous job with outreach Pacers Sports and Entertainment, Pacers Cares, Fever Cares I mean, we’re out all the time, and we really value our community.
And having that outreach, having that value and I can tell you another thing that really helps us. There’s not one person in the Pacers organization that says the word Pacers without saying the word Fever. Everything that we do, it’s Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever. From pregame in the Pacers broadcast, if we have a community event for the Pacers, it’s Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever. From our president and our owner going out and talking about Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever. Never mentioned without mentioning Fever.
So from the top, you’ve got to be valued. And when you’re valued from the top and you’re included from the top and every message that you send out, whether it be from a community relations standpoint, a public relations standpoint, every message that you send is that we’re together in this, fans embrace that. We call the Pacers our big brothers. We’re there for them, and the players that are in town, our staff when we’re here, and they’re here for us. And it’s a unique cultivation. Same thing with the Colts really.
And I think it’s unique to our community. I think Minnesota’s fans are awesome. They have been, gosh, for as long as I can remember. But it’s also a team that Minnesota Gophers had great fan support. I remember when [Lindsay] Whalen and Janel McCarville were playing there. When you have two communities that love and support, when you have two organizations that are on par with their message, I think it just breeds success.
Q. Steph, this postseason will go the distance for you guys, 5 0 in elimination games. You mentioned Catch. I know a lot of people, a lot of teams would fold in those type of situations. Is it as simple as her or more to it?
COACH WHITE: I don’t think it’s as simple as her. A lot of people were asking me about Tamika Catchings numbers. I’m like, no, it’s not the numbers. She’s tricking all you guys because it’s not the numbers. It’s the way that she creates for her teammates whether it be through her hard nosed play, whether it be through her extra possessions and toughness, whether it be through her spacing, whether it be what she’s saying in the huddle, the way she’s been coachable all season long.
I challenged her with a couple of her turnovers, and she responded, and she took it. So there are a lot of things that Tamika Catchings does that don’t show up in the stat sheets that we value as teammates and that allow her teammates to be coached the same way that I coach her.
The other thing is that I mean, no, it’s not as simple as that because everybody on our team is so much better today than we were whatever day we started training camp. So much better. And that’s a tribute to them, to them getting in the gym, getting better, sacrificing, doing not only the work that we have to do in practice, but the extra work, rising to the challenge, being able to be coached, and then coming out and sacrificing for one another every day.
And it’s just really a unique team, and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.
Q. Stephanie, you guys seem to extend your defense quite a bit today. What was the thought process behind that? What were you trying to accomplish?
COACH WHITE: We wanted to try to keep them out of an offensive rhythm, probably much the same reason they were extending their defense against us. Make it difficult for them to bring the ball down the floor. Make them run offense with less time on the clock. Make other people initiate offense besides their lead guards. And just put on a little bit more pressure.
We feel like we have the depth to do it. We played our bench a little bit more in the last two games than we have pretty much the entire playoffs. We wanted to use our bench to try to wear them down and use our bench and use our defensive energy to try to create some turnovers.
MINNESOTA’S MAYA MOORE AND LINDSAY WHALEN
Q. Maya, they had a run in the third quarter that put them up 14 points. Then you guys made a run at the end. They had one basket in the final quarter. Just talk about your defense in that last 10 minutes after you guys went back against Indiana with a chance to pull another one out.
MAYA MOORE: We just tried to make everything hard in that fourth quarter. Just playing with a little more awareness, a little more connectedness of trying to help each other when we could, being active. Fortunately, we [got them to] turn the ball over, got a couple of shots that didn’t go in, and we were able to come back and push the pace a little bit. Got into a little bit of a foul game, and they missed a few, and we were able to execute on the other end.
The game was busted open with that 14 point deficit, and we didn’t have enough to recover from that run. That was a big run that ended up being the difference in the game.
Q. For either of you, Indiana 25 of 29 from the free throw line. What made their offense so difficult to stop without fouling in this game?
MAYA MOORE: Generally, when you’re the more aggressive team, you’re going to end up going to the foul line. They were very determined to be on the attack to the inside. So we have to do a better job of playing to our identity, which is a team that protects the paint and doesn’t foul.
So their game plan was to get to the paint, get to the free throw line, and ours was to stop that. So they did that better than we did in these 40 minutes.
Q. Lindsay, your thoughts about the decisive Game 5 back at Target Center?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, now it’s take care of your bodies and get ready for Wednesday night. Regroup and see what you can do better, see what the video will teach us and go out there and try to execute the game plan that the coaches give us to the best of our abilities.
Q. Maya, obviously, you guys wanted to close out tonight, but if you take a step back a second, just for the league, having the series go five games with two teams that have been so close for the first four, is it kind of neat for the league to have a fifth and deciding game for the first time in a few years?
MAYA MOORE: Sure. I don’t know if neat is how we feel no, I hear you. It’s great for everyone to watch. The series has been a fun one to watch, I think, especially the last few games have been very fun, I think, just from a fan standpoint.
So a lot of great things happening. Players making plays. Sometimes you can have all the schemes and sets in the world, but it comes down to players making plays. You’ve seen a lot of that in this series. One more game to see which players do that more.
Q. Maya, even though you’re not excited about playing a Game 5, you’ve got to be excited about being able to go home to play the Game 5 in front of your fans and be able to have the home court advantage, which you played for all season to get?
MAYA MOORE: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely not pleased with the way we executed our game plan today, but without question, if I was to say where do I want to finish my season, it would be at the Target Center. That’s going to be a great opportunity for us and our fans to really be who we’ve been all season. That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to be anything more than who we are. We just need to be ourselves at home, and we have a really good chance if we do that.
It’s going to be hard, but if I was to, like I said, have a choice, I’d want to do it in the Target Center.
Q. Lindsay, you got off to a pretty good start tonight. I think the best you played in the whole series early on. Were you trying to be more aggressive and get your shot going as opposed to letting it react?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, early on, I thought there were a couple of opportunities to get in the lane and make some things happen. Had a couple of great passes in there, and that’s what we’re all trying to do is trying to make plays for our team.
Yeah, tonight there were a couple of openings and just tried to, like I said, get in there and make a couple things happen. Just do what I could.
INDIANA’S TAMIKA CATCHINGS SHENISE JOHNSON
Q. Tamika, third quarter was the difference in the game. After you guys gave up the lead and Steph called time out, what happened from that moment?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: That’s a ‘You need to be in the huddle’ moment. Steph went off on us and basically just challenged us. She said, you guys have 30 seconds to turn this thing around.
Literally, we went out, and she just lit a fire up on us, and she was just like, this is a game to allow you an opportunity to play for a Championship, and this is how you want to come out. Those are my nice words.
Q. Shenise, about the third about three minutes left in the third quarter, you just took over. What happened in that moment that they were doing defensively that allowed you to become more aggressive than you were in the first 2 1/2 quarters or so?
SHENISE JOHNSON: Just being aggressive. Just being aggressive. I can’t really say anything switched or changed. We’re not ready for our season to be over. We pushed this thing to one more, and we definitely didn’t want them to win on our home court.
Q. Catch, like a broken record with you guys in the playoffs this year. 5 0 in the elimination games, a chance to win one more on Wednesday. What is it about this team that, when your back’s against the wall, you found a way to win every single time in this playoff?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: It’s just that focus. It’s just knowing what we have done all season long. We play to the highs and the lows, and we’ve always pulled together at the right time. I think even more so, like wanting it for each other. We literally got into the playoffs, and it’s like, all right, we’ve had the highs and lows throughout the regular season.
At that point, we’d never had all 12 players for a full game. We knew that, once we put all 12 of us together, how much better we could be and how great we could be. Just really like we’re inspired. We’re inspired by one another. You see that when we’re out there. It doesn’t matter whose night it is. Like most stepped up in the second half. Bri’s [Briann January] been balling. Z’s [Shavonte Zellous] had her time. Marissa [Coleman] had her time. I had my time. Bench has been great. Tasha Howard, I can’t say enough about her when she comes into the game, and Kizer, what she brings for us.
Every single person that’s gotten in, we pray for each other, and it’s just that extra motivation that you don’t want it to be done yet.
SHENISE JOHNSON: Yeah.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Are you going to ask about my layups again?
Q. No, I’m not going to ask about your layups because you made it this time. You came out and got six points real quick. You got the steal. You had the turnover on Maya Moore, and you got the time out. Was this just one of those games where you said it ain’t going to happen tonight?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Definitely. One thing I think everybody always looks at, how many points people score. I’ve always continuously talked about just all the little things that make a difference in a ball game. For me, it’s one of those things where, as you kind of passed the torch on, and it’s great to see the younger players or maybe not so young [laughter] the younger players stepping up and doing the little things they need to do to be able to attack.
I know Shenise is going to be modest, but the one thing that I challenged her all season long is you are a good player that has potential to be a great player. If every single day your mentality will be that I am great, there is nobody that can stop you. You see that in a little wave. She waited until the second half, but we need her to do that for 40 minutes next game. I’m just saying.
SHENISE JOHNSON: I’ll take that challenge.
Q. Shenise, and Tamika could both lead with that because Steph has talked a lot about how Catch’s confidence in you guys has allowed you to be better. Natasha’s [Howard] been good in the playoffs. She’s a second year pro. This is your first year here, Shenise. Marissa, it’s her second year. None of these folks were on the 2012 Championship team. Could you just talk about the dynamic that’s allowed you to kind of blend together because this isn’t exactly the same team as the 2012 championship team.
SHENISE JOHNSON: Well, I just listen and observe. I do a lot of listening. Don’t know much. I’m looking to Catch. I’m looking to Bri. I’m looking to Steph. And they do a great job of putting us in position to make good decisions. You know what I mean?
Like Steph knows each player very, very well. It’s not just about your basketball IQ. We have good relationships with each other. And when you have that, the trust is unlimited. And that’s something that I can say that I’ve never experienced before between a coach and a player, the trust that we have with Steph.
Q. For either of you, on top of your performance, one part of it, 25 of 29 from the free throw line, how were you able to get so many opportunities? And what allowed you to drive so effectively?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Well, just being aggressive. We were a lot more aggressive tonight. And then, of course, Sylvia Fowles not being in the game, that really kind of opened up down low because she is their defensive stopper, getting up and being able to block shots and stuff.
I thought we did a really good job as a team just moving them side to side. The ball from one side to the other side, back to the other side, and then attacking.
But early on, they were doing the same thing to us, and they were getting a lot of fouls. That’s what Steph was talking about. If they’re going to do it, we’re a good enough team that we should be able to go back and forth and be able to drive in. And then getting to the free throw line and knocking down free throws.
Q. Could you take us into that final huddle you had after the handshake line and tell us what you were saying to each other?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Don’t be satisfied. Of course, I’m always the one that like calms everybody down. Okay, no, I don’t want you all to celebrate. I want you to get focused for the next game because the last three minutes of the game, we played not to lose instead of playing to win and doing the things that we had done all game. We can’t afford those mental lapses in a 40 minute game when we have now an opportunity to go at Minnesota. They’re just too good of a team for that.
And then Bri had to kind of come in and say, you know what, we’re going to celebrate. We’re excited that we won the game and that we put ourselves in a position to get another opportunity. For me, I’m like, we’re going to look at the tape and continue to get better. We’ve got one life.
SHENISE JOHNSON: One life.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: One life.
Q. Tamika, talk to us about the character of this team, what you’ve seen from the middle of the season where a lot of folks outside of Indianapolis didn’t believe that you could be in a situation to play for a Championship in a Game 5 and going on the road. Talk to us about what you’ve seen from a development standpoint and attitude standpoint with this team.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Just confidence. You’ve seen from the beginning of the season to where we in the middle of the season, to the beginning of the playoffs, you just continue to see the confidence of the team get higher and higher.
I talk about just that believing in one another, but then also like we’re all so motivated to be here. We have a lot of first-timers. This is their first time being in a Championship, The Finals, and even making it to the playoffs. So like you want to build off of that.
I talk to them a lot about like, look, this opportunity does not happen often. Like we’ve been very blessed as an organization to be able to make the playoffs 11 years straight, but making it to The Finals, out of 11 years, we’ve only been there 3 times. So this doesn’t happen every single year, and every game you have to take advantage of your next opportunity.
So when I talk to them, like I’m always showering them with confidence. I’m always like, you know, you got this. You can be great. Every game you come out, this is what you need to think about. But I think they feed off of me too. So making sure that I’m always in high spirits.
I was really down after the game the other day, but more so disappointed in myself. But when I came in yesterday, all that was gone. It’s like, okay, we’re going to win this. We’re going to win this.
Q. Catch, is it fitting that this series goes five games when it’s been so close for the first four? Probably about a one point difference right now.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Yeah, I talked about this last time, but it’s a great series for the WNBA. It’s great for women’s basketball. It’s great that it’s on TV. It’s great there are so many people that are locked into this that maybe have never seen a WNBA game, maybe have never been interested in women’s basketball. But basketball is basketball. You can’t deny the great competition on both sides. You can’t deny the great play that have been made on both sides of the ball.
So it’s only fitting that we go to Game 5, and we’re going to get to Minnesota; I know the place is going to be loud. But that’s what you play for. You want to play in environments like that. That’s what makes it fun for us.