Fever kick off quest for championship tonight in NYC by justinwhitaker
August 26, 2010, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Indiana Fever, Justin Whitaker | Tags: , , ,

By Justin Whitaker

After backing into the postseason, the Indiana Fever start their bid for a championship tonight against the New York Liberty in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs tonight.

The best-of-three series will determine the better team this season as both spilt the season series 2-2. Indiana (21-13), the No. 3 seed, was the Eastern Conference leader until a late-season slide that included losing their last three games.

New York (22-12) on the other hand enter the playoffs on a hot streak and as the No. 2 seed. In the month of August, the Liberty went 9-1, including two victories over the Fever.

But with the playoffs starting, it’s back to square one. Win two games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Lose and it’s early vacation for a roster of eleven.

Both teams won a game on the road and home-court advantage might not factor into the equation much. The Fever won their first two matchups by an average of four points, while the Liberty’s average margin of victory was 14.5 points. In their last meeting on Aug. 17 in New York, the Liberty handily defeated the Fever 78-57.

Tamika Catchings averaged 20 points per game in their four matchups. New York’s Cappie Pondexter exploded for a career-high 40 points in their July 18 84-81 loss.

Pondexter is a familiar foe for the Fever as she played against Indiana in the WNBA Finals last season for the Phoenix Mercury. The four-year veteran out of Rutgers had four 20-plus point games in the Finals last postseason. For the Fever, slowing down Pondexter is a must in order to win.

Indiana must also watch out for the streaky scorer, forward Nicole Powell. She went scoreless, shooting 0-for-10 from the field in the July 18 loss. But in the Aug. 3 matchup, Powell played like a completely different player. She led all scorers with 20 points, including 6-for-7 from the three-point line.

For Indiana to win the series, Catchings needs to continue her MVP-like season. This season has arguably been her best season offensively for the player that is usually known more for her defense. She shot career-highs of .484 from the field and .448 from beyond the arc. Catchings’ season average of 18.2 points per game was also the highest in seven years. On top of her scoring, Catchings also averaged 7.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game and led the league with 2.26 steals per game.

Game 1 is tonight at 7 p.m. on NBA TV in New York. Game 2 will take place at Conseco Fieldhouse, Sunday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. If necessary, Game 3 will be Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in New York.



Fever take over East lead in dramatic fashion by justinwhitaker

By Justin Whitaker

After losing three straight games against each of the Eastern Conference’s current playoff teams, the Indiana Fever could not afford to lose this one.

On the back of Tamika Catchings’ season-high 30 points the Fever (17-10) beat the Atlanta Dream (18-11) in dramatic fashion, 95-93.

Up by nine points early in the fourth quarter, the Fever were unable to withhold a run from the Dream. Dream forward Angel McCoughtry scored 12 points in the final period propelling Atlanta back into the game. The Dream finally tied the score at 80 with 6:07 to play.

In the final six minutes, the score was tied six times and the teams traded the lead four times. With 3:04 to play, Atlanta led 90-86.  Leading most of the game, the Fever were now trying to dig themselves out of a hole against the young team.

“You looked in everybody’s faces like, ‘We’re not going to lose this game tonight,’ Catchings said.

The veteran group of Fever players fought back showcasing their will to win and swarming defense – including forcing a shot clock violation with 1:38 remaining with the score tied 90-90.

Fever forward Ebony Hoffman made the first of two free throws with :30.1 remaining to tie the game 93-93. Upon missing the second free throw, Hoffman rebounded her miss, keeping the possession alive. Catchings then missed a lay-up and the Dream’s Sancho Lyttle grabbed the rebound.

But Katie Douglas stole the ball and passed to Catchings who was fouled by McCoughtry. Catchings made both free throws giving the Fever the lead 95-93 with :03.5 remaining. Dream center Alison Bales was fouled on the ensuing possession but missed both free throws allowing Jessica Moore to grab the game clinching rebound as time expired.

Catchings had a team-high 30 points and eight rebounds, including 11 points in the final period. All game Catchings had to keep up with the explosive duo of McCoughtry and Iziane Castro Marques. McCoughtry, the WNBA’s second leading scorer, had a game-high 31 points. Castro Marques, the WNBA’s sixth leading scorer, poured in 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting.

Catchings had help though from Tammy Sutton-Brown who scored a season-high 17 points and added seven rebounds. Katie Douglas scored 13 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Off the bench, Jessica Davenport added 10 points and Shavonte Zellous scored a quick 11 points in seven minutes.

The Atlanta Dream marched into Conseco Fieldhouse atop the Eastern Conference as the No. 1 seed, one game ahead of Indiana. But left Indianapolis quite different than how they entered. Losing not only the game, but also the No. 1 seed and head-to-head tiebreaker (3-2) to the Fever in the process.

Indiana currently sits tied with Atlanta in the standings, but owns the tiebreaker. The New York Liberty and Washington Mystics both sit one game back of the East lead at 16-11.

Indiana has five of their last seven games on the road. The Fever return home on Aug. 13 against their 2009 WNBA Finals opponent, the Phoenix Mercury in their one and only trip to Conseco Fieldhouse this year.



Fever continue slide against Liberty by justinwhitaker
August 4, 2010, 12:04 am
Filed under: Indiana Fever, Justin Whitaker | Tags:

By Justin Whitaker

Now in the midst of a season-first three game losing streak, the Indiana Fever are falling in the Eastern Conference.

After losses against the Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream and after last night the New York Liberty – Indiana has lost a game to each team currently in the east playoffs.

On the back of Nicole Powell’s season-high 20 points the Fever (16-10) dropped to the Liberty 82-72. It was the Liberty’s (15-11) first victory at Conseco Fieldhouse since 2002 as they ended a 13-game Fever home win streak.

From the tip-off, the Liberty came to play. They made their first four field goals jumping out to an early 10-2 advantage.

In the second quarter, New York extended the lead to 14 – a season-high deficit for the Fever at home. Indiana did not score a field goal in the period until 2:50 to play. After one half the Liberty were outshooting the Fever 54 percent to 32 percent and had four more 3-pointers than Indiana.

But entering the third the Fever made a run using their bread and butter, their defense. They held New York to 4-of-14 shooting from the field and forced five turnovers. Tamika Catchings scored eight points in the quarter including two and-1 opportunities.

Indiana cut the lead to one with three minutes remaining in the third, but New York held onto the lead for the remainder of the game. The Liberty outscored the Fever 25-17 in the fourth, including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. New York finished the game shooting 67 percent from 3-point range on 12-for-18 shooting.

Powell’s sharpshooting set a WNBA Conseco Fieldhouse record for most three ever made in a game. Plus she tied two others for the most 3-pointers ever made by a Fever opponent – Katie Douglas, then with the Connecticut Sun and Crystal Robinson who played for the Liberty.

Quite a reversal of fortune for Powell who in the July 18 matchup in New York went 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

With the loss and Washington’s victory over Atlanta, the Fever fell to third place in the East. The Mystics are tied (16-10) with the Fever but own the season tiebreaker 3-1. New York is now a game behind Indiana and two games from East leader Atlanta (18-10).

Even though the result was not positive for Indiana as team, Catchings broke multiple records as an individual. In the first quarter, she became the second player in WNBA history to record 700 steals. In the third period, Catchings became the tenth WNBA player with at least 1,000 career assists and the first to do so with 2,000 rebounds also.

Indiana’s tough schedule continues Friday as the East-leading Dream head into town. Game time is set for 7 p.m. as the Fever look to end their three-game skid.



Question isn’t about Brickyard attendance, but Fever attendance by jimjohnsonpbm

by Jim Johnson

There aren’t very many people in the stands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon. I look outside the media room at the track and can count the people I see. And I’m not convinced there will be many who will show up on Sunday for the race. Who knows what the reason is? It could be a lack of interest in NASCAR. It could be economic times. Or maybe this terrible heat – it feels a heck of a lot hotter at the Speedway, by the way.

But I’m not really that concerned or wondering about the lack of numbers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the weekend of the Brickyard 400. But I continue to wonder why there is a lack of people in the stands at Conseco Fieldhouse during Indiana Fever games.

My journey as a freelance sportswriter sends me to Indiana Pacers games, Indianapolis Colts games, Big Ten events, and high school sporting events. Lately, my responsibilities have expanded to racing events at the Speedway and to the Indiana Fever.

So I haven’t been to very many Indiana Fever games in my life. In fact, this season is the first year I have ever been to a game. I can’t help but to wonder why the curtains are down in the upper balcony and why there continues to be so many empty seats during a Fever game.

Everyone uses the excuse that its the WNBA, however, these Fever games are far more exciting than the majority of the Indiana Pacers games I’ve watched these past several years.

The attendance numbers are down, however, there is so much energy in Conseco Fieldhouse during a game. Indiana has a great and ethical WNBA team and more fans should fill the seats.

It’s lack of education and knowledge of what this team is doing and capable of doing. How many in Indiana knows the depth of the Fever team? How many know they have been somewhere in the Top 4 teams in the east for several weeks? I didn’t until I started to cover the women’s team.

The Indiana Fever needs more support from it’s city and state. I certainly am not in Public Relations with the Fever, but I know a good, solid, ethical team when I see one and they’re deserving of some kudos.

As for the Brickyard 400? Well… it’s hot as hell outside!



Fever rebound with big win over conference leading Dream by justinwhitaker

By Justin Whitaker

Against the Connecticut Sun two days prior, the Indiana Fever squandered a lead in fourth quarter and lost a tough one after leading much of the game. But against the Atlanta Dream, they made sure to finish.

Indiana (12-7) beat the Eastern Conference leading Dream (14-7), 89-70.  Atlanta’s conference lead was cut to only a half game in front of the Washington Mystics and a game ahead of Indiana.

In what could also be a factor in the postseason if these teams meet, the experience and chemistry reigned supreme in the fourth quarter.

Up by six entering the final period, Indiana poured on the points and turned up the defense.  They outscored the Dream 23-10 for the quarter.

For the game, Indiana shot 51.6 percent from the field, only the fourth time they have shot over 50 percent all season.

Do-it-all  player Tamika Catchings finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six steals. She also logged her third double-double of the season.

Perry Meridian High School and Purdue University alum Katie Douglas added 20 points and four assists for Indiana.

But one of the biggest contributions for Indiana came from Ebony Hoffman, who played one of her best games of the season. Big Dog tied a season-high with 17 points – including 13 in the second half – and then added five rebounds and four steals.

The Fever also received a big boost from reserve center Jessica Davenport. She contributed 17 points and a season-high five rebounds in 22 minutes. Davenport and guard Briann January were part of the unit in the third and fourth quarters that went on a 22-9 run enabling the Fever to put the Dream away.

Last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year, Angel McCoughtry led all scorers with 27 points for Atlanta. But the University of Louisville product also led all players with seven turnovers.

Indiana next plays Sunday at 4 p.m. at Madison Square Garden against the New York Liberty. The Fever then return to Conseco Fieldhouse Thursday for a national television game on ESPN2 against the Los Angeles Sparks at 7 p.m.

Atlanta, Washington and Indiana all have a game this weekend and once the weekend is over, any one of these three teams can be leading or tied for the conference lead. The Connecticut Sun are not far behind either in fourth place, only two games behind the Dream.



At the halfway point, Fever look to continue to improve by justinwhitaker

By Justin Whitaker

With the first half of the WNBA season completed, the best is yet to come for the Indiana Fever.

Sitting at 11-6 and third place in the Eastern Conference, the beginning of the season is not a reflection of things to come.

Four of the five starters missed the preseason playing in the Turkish League championship and did not return until a few days before the opener against the Washington Mystics. The jet lag from the four players passed onto the team as they lost three of their first five games.

Before the fifth game against the Tulsa Shock, the Fever made a move that has paid off well this season. Guard Shavonte Zellous was stolen from the Shock in a trade on May 27. Giving up only a second round pick, Zellous was the newest castaway of former Detroit Shock players sent packing by Tulsa GM Nolan Richardson.

Zellous’ acquisition has been beneficial to say the least. The athletic slasher is averaging 7.3 points in her 13 games off the bench for the Fever.

Her best performance came against the New York Liberty in a 78-73 home victory on June 5. Zellous led all scorers with 23 points, including 10-for-12 from the charity stripe. Indiana is 9-4 since her arrival.

The acquisition of Zellous deepened the Fever’s already productive bench. Second-year guard Briann January and Zellous lead a second unit that has scored 30+ points six times this season and is second in the league in bench scoring. Former 2007 second overall pick, Jessica Davenport, is averaging a career-high 6.3 points per game off the bench.

Because of the bench, the ability for coach Lin Dunn to keep the starters fresh will be essential as the season progresses and hopefully into the playoffs.

The Fever also were honored to have their dynamic duo of Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas participate in the WNBA’s All-Star Weekend. Douglas played for the WNBA Stars facing off against Catchings and the USA National Team. The USA National Team won 99-72. Earlier in the day, Douglas showcased her talents from behind the arc, winning the 3-point contest.

Together the duo averages just over 30 points per game. One of the two has also led the team in scoring in 13 of their 17 games.

As this team looks toward the second half of the season, seven of their next 10 games come in the friendly confines of Conseco Fieldhouse where they are 7-1 this season. The favorable schedule should allow for Indiana to shore up their playoff seeding and catch the leading Atlanta Dream who are only two games ahead.

Just as long as this team makes the playoffs, the plan will still be on track. The regular season has no foresight into the future. Last year, Indiana was the No. 1 seed in the East, made the Finals and lost in five games.

This year they are better and deeper. If the Fever stay on course and keep improving, Indiana is sitting in a good position to win the WNBA Championship.



Fever win battle of the WNBA’s best defenses by justinwhitaker

by Justin Whitaker

In a matchup of the top two defenses in the WNBA, the best one came out on top.

The Indiana Fever (7-4) won 72-65 over the WNBA’s best team, the Seattle Storm (9-2) using balanced scoring and tough defense.

Both teams entered the game as the two best scoring defenses with the Fever allowing just under 70 points and the Storm allowing 73 points a game.

All ten players that saw action scored for the Fever and seven of them scored at least six points or more. Katie Douglas led Indiana with 15 points.

But Seattle opened up the game on fire. They made their first six shots and jumped out to a 15-6 lead. But after one quarter, the Storm only led 27-22.

In the second quarter, down by ten, Indiana went on a 13-0 rally to head into halftime up 35-34.

Seattle scored seven points in the quarter, which is the fewest allowed in a quarter all season by the Fever.

The lead changed hands 10 times in the third quarter as neither team led by more than three. Shavonte Zellous made a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining to give the Fever a 53-50 advantage and the lead for good.

“The bench came in and gave us another level of intensity,” forward Ebony Hoffman said. “They came hit some big shots, got to the free-throw line and it was all she wrote after that.”

Indiana jumped out to an 11-point lead in the fourth and held strong for the victory.

Two-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson had 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss. She is fourth in the league in scoring (20.1) and eighth in rebounding (8.3).

Her versatility as both a 3-point shooter and post player makes her tough to guard.

“It’s just hard to predict what she’s going to do,” Hoffman said. “With most teams they have similar sets and you can predict what teams are going to do. But with Lauren you never know where she’s going to be at and when she’s going to shoot the ball.”

This win solidifies the Fever’s spot as one of the top teams in the WNBA after giving Seattle only their second loss on the season.

“This was huge, we got to see the best in the west,” said Briann January, who scored eight points. “This was huge for us just to see a great team who can score in all positions and defends well. It’s a good test for us coming up against Atlanta as well.”

Australian Fever guard Tully Bevilaqua had six points and five rebounds in a reunion of sorts. She played for Seattle from 2003-2004 and won a championship in 2004.

There is also three fellow Aussies on the team in Jackson and rookies Alison Lacey and Abby Bishop. Facing close friends can always be emotional.

“There’s mixed emotions as we are all such good friends,” Bevilaqua said. “We always make a point of catching up the night before the game and once the game is over with it’s back to being friends again.”

The Fever take on the Atlanta Dream at 7 p.m. Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.