Sunday, September 22, 2013

Indiana Fever Advance to Eastern Conference Finals

The Indiana Fever have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, after sweeping the Chicago Sky, 2 – 0, in a best-of-3 series. The first defeat happened this past Friday night when the Fever rolled over the Sky, 85 – 72, in front of a seriously-lacking hometown crowd. My kids and I watched the game on TV, and we were surprised by the lack of a crowd at the game.

We had a chance to watch the Fever on Sunday at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. My son and I were on a travel writing trip in Bloomington, and we were given the tickets at the last minute (courtesy of the Indiana Fever), so we cut our trip short, raced home, and ended up missing the first few minutes of the first quarter.

I had been communicating with Fever PR guy Kevin Messenger during the last home game of the season, asking him whether the team was looking more forward to facing Chicago or Atlanta in the first round of the finals. He said the Fever were 3 – 1 against the Sky in the regular season, but both teams were plagued by injuries for most of the encounters, which had a lot to do with the record. He said the team actually preferred the player-to-player matchup against the Atlanta Dream, even though the team was 1 – 3 against them.

It looks like the team may get their wish, since the Fever will play the winners of the Dream-Washington Mystics series. (My money is on the Dream to make it through to the Eastern conference finals.)

But tonight, I just felt bad for the Chicago Sky. This was their first playoff appearance in team history, and it showed. It showed in their inexperience, their nerves, and in their execution. They actually looked a little worried and tentative. For the Fever, on the other hand, this was old hat for them. They're used to postseason play. And last year's team, the team that won the finals, had nearly every player back this year. This is a stellar team, and I fully expect to see them in the Finals again this year.

Three Fever players were in double digits — Tamika Catchings (18), Erlana Larkins (14), and Shavonte Zellous (10) — while Catchings and Larkins both had double digit rebounds, with 12 and 11 respectively. It was Catchings' 20th career double-double in the playoffs, which is a WNBA record. This was also the fourth time the Fever have had two double-doubles in one playoff game.

Everyone else on the team managed to score several points, including players like Layshia Clarendon scoring 9 points, which is one of her highest point totals of the season. Unfortunately, Jasmine Hassell had no points and only 1 rebound. I'm still waiting to see her blossom soon. I was especially surprised that they let Jessica Breland go when Katie Douglas came back, and then brought back Hassell. Given Breland's productivity on the court, she seemed like the most obvious choice. But as I've said to my kids, there must be some hidden diamonds that coach Lin Dunn sees and knows she needs, so we're going to wait and see if Dunn and her staff can mine it and bring it out of her.

Of course, it's not a Fever game if the refs don't screw up at least one call, and they had a couple of doozies this time. Nothing too bad — it's not like football where a blown call can result in a touchdown unfairly gained or lost, and a game can be lost. The Fever more than recovered, and put the occasional errors behind them.

Of course, there were a couple penalties they probably deserved. . .

(That tweet got Shavonte Zellous to follow me! It was a proud day.)

Update: The Atlanta Dream have beaten the Washington Mystics and will face the Fever in Atlanta on Thursday. This is another best-of-3 series, and the winner goes on to the finals.

So, this Thursday is a matchup of one of the Fever's biggest rivals, the game that brings the most yells and screams from a Fever crowd. Whether we're watching it live or watching it on TV, we'll be watching every second of every game until the playoffs are over or until the Fever go home.

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