Here’s a formula for a championship:
Twice start off 0-1 in best-of-three series. Lose your hottest scorer. Go on the road for 12 days. Play the defending champion that features three Olympic gold medalists.
The Indiana Fever did it, and they were able to win it. Tamika Catchings scored 25 points and added the only missing element on her distinguished basketball resume: WNBA champion.
The Fever completed an improbable run through the playoffs, beating the Minnesota Lynx 87-78 Sunday night to win the the best-of-five series 3-1 before a crowd of 15,213 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
They did so after losing Katie Douglas to injury. Nonetheless, Douglas earns a championship ring in her beloved hometown. She took the floor for the closing three seconds.
Erin Phillips scored 18 points, Shavonte Zellous 15 and Briann January 15 for the Fever.
Lindsay Whalen scored 22 and Maya Moore 16 for the Lynx. The third member of the trio of Olympic gold medalists, Seimone Augustus, was limited to eight on 3-of-21 shooting.
The Fever became the fifth different franchise to win a WNBA title in as many years. They are now the only current Eastern Conference team to win it all.
The Lynx were bidding to become the league’s first repeat champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.
All the Fever did was:
— Beat the Lynx, who had been 11-2 in playoffs over two years. The Lynx were 1-3 vs. the Fever.
— Fall behind 1-0 in each of the first two rounds of the WNBA playoffs. No team had ever done so and gone on to win the championship.
— Win four playoff road games in their first 12 seasons. Then they won three in 15 days.
— Leave Indianapolis on Oct. 6 and not return for 12 days.
After the Lynx closed within 70-67, Phillips scored on a layup with a strong move to the hoop. Then she rebounded a Lynx miss and passed into the left corner to Zellous, whose 3-pointer expanded the margin to 75-67 and caused the crowd to erupt.
January’s 3-pointer with 1:18 left pushed the Fever ahead 80-72 and sealed the outcome.
The Fever built their biggest lead, 56-46, midway through the third quarter. However, they went cold during a 10-0 run by the Lynx that evened it at 56.
That’s when Catchings went to work.
She made a long 3-pointer, then stole a pass from Whalen. The Fever proceeded to score on Jessica Davenport’s bank shot off a January assist, and they went ahead 61-56.
For the fifth successive playoff game, the Fever led after one quarter (25-18) and the half (47-42).
Still, the game was nothing like Friday’s Game 3, in which the Fever led by 21 in the second quarter and by 37 in the third.
The Lynx went ahead 2-0 despite needing six shots on the first possession, but the Fever took control soon thereafter. The Fever were effective in transition, using their speed to race downcourt after clearing rebounds.
A 13-3 run propelled the Fever into an 18-9 lead. They led by nine on two other occasions, 21-12 and 27-18.
Whalen scored eight consecutive Lynx points in the second quarter, and the Lynx tied it at 38, 40 and 42. Phillips’ long 3-pointer and January’s driving layup allowed the Fever to restore their margin to 47-42 at halftime.
Catchings went to the bench with 23.7 seconds left in the half after picking up her third foul.
The Fever committed only two first-half turnovers. They shot 38 percent (13-of-34) to Minnesota’s 41 percent (16-of-39).
The Lynx stayed close despite Augustus’ 2-of-12 shooting. Whalen had 14 by halftime with perfect shooting (5-of-5 field, 4-of-4 free throws).
For the Fever, Catchings and Phillips had 13 each and Zellous 10 at the half.
(Source: Indianpolis Star)