Down 22 points in an elimination semifinal playoff game against the Connecticut Sun, the odds were definitely not in the Indiana Fever’s favor.
Shooting 30 percent in the first half with four of the five starters with only one field goal each, doubt began to linger.
Then the Fever honed down and got back to the basics.
“I said ‘Hey, there’s a lot of game left and we’re not going to be able to get it all back at once,’” said coach Brian Winters. “We just needed to chip away at the lead.”
And chip away they did.
Led by Tamika Catchings’ 30 points and 13 rebounds, the Fever were able to send the game in overtime and complete the largest comeback in WNBA playoff history trailing 39-17 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter.
“You really appreciate games like this,” said Winters. “I can’t say enough about my players, they dug down really deep and came up big.”
Catchings who was playing her third game after a 13-game absence due to a foot injury said the team never lost confidence.
“As a team we’ve rallied around each other and played great together,” she said.
“Never once in this game did we say, ‘We’re not going to win,’” said Tamika Whitmore who added 24 points off the bench. “Coach told us all game long to pick away at it little by little, and that’s what we did.”
The Sun won their first five games against the Fever this season, but lost the two that could’ve sent them to their fourth Eastern finals appearance. The series has been one for the ages.
During game one at Connecticut, the Fever got down 17 points but were able to force three overtimes – another WNBA playoff record – before losing 93-88.
Game two showed the Fever’s motivation as they defeated the Sun by 19. Game three says Whitmore was, “spectacular, even by NBA standards.”
Indiana outscored the Sun 45-33 in the fourth quarter and overtime to win only its second playoff series in franchise history.
“When they got stops, they were doing what we were doing to them the first three quarters,” said Katie Douglas, a Perry Meridian High School and Purdue alum. “They were running it down our throats in transition, getting easy baskets and getting confidence.”
Indiana, a No. 2 seed will open the East finals Friday against No. 1 Detroit Shock or No. 2 New York Liberty. If the Shock win the Fever will host, if the Liberty win they will play at New York.
“If we play New York we’ll have to defend the three (point shot) and if we play Detroit we have to really attack them and get somebody in foul trouble so they’re not out on the floor,” said Whitmore.