By: Brock Sanders
(Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings driving the ball to the basket while being closed in by Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson and center Janel McCarville. AP Photo)
Unfortunately the remnants of “Bieber Fever” from the Justin Bieber concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last night was not enough to ensure an Indiana Fever victory against a talented Minnesota Lynx team today. With the annual Kids’ Day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Fever took a tough 69-62 loss. The injuries for the Fever continue to prove insurmountable, as they take a 4-8 record on the road to New York.
The defending WNBA champions are making progress despite the injuries. Playing today without Katie Douglas (back), Jeanette Pohlen (left knee), Jessica Davenport (left leg), and a game time scratch of backup forward Jessica Breland (left ankle) left the Fever short-handed.
“I thought it was a good test for us to see where we are with a lot of people still hurt,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.
Fever guard Erin Phillips saw her first action today since a preseason game May 15, and before that the last time she played was Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on October 21. Phillips went 3 for 12 with 8 points, including a pair of three pointers.
“There’s always some anxiety and excitement and mixed emotions. Disappointed that we couldn’t win, but I’m glad the first one is out of the way,” Phillips said.
Along with the excitement comes the mandatory rehab. Phillips was icing her knee after the game, but she stated that it is just precautionary and that it felt nearly 100 percent when she was out on the floor.
“This is basically just the routine now for maintenance, but it actually felt really good out there,” Phillips said.
The Minnesota Lynx were also playing without starting shooting guard Seimone Augustus, Minnesota’s second leading scorer with 15.5 points per game. Monica Wright, recently engaged to Oklahoma City Thunder’s star Kevin Durant, played exceptionally well for the Lynx scoring 22 points with 10 coming in the first quarter.
Minnesota’s point guard Lindsay Whalen is always tough to stop. Whalen recorded 23 points with 12 points in the fourth quarter and she continued to hit clutch shots to stop the Fever from taking a lead.
“Lindsay Whelan hurt us down the stretch. She’s so strong and she hit some big shots when the game was on the line. I think she has gotten even better. She’s leaner. I think she’s gotten quicker. We were switching on her and I think I want to start saying don’t ever switch on Whalen. She hurt us when we needed to stop them,” Dunn said.
The Fever have a quality reminiscent of most Indiana basketball teams in that they have great defense. They allow a league best 71.5 points per game, and that defense was on display today. The Lynx only attempted four three pointers, failing to make a single one. The Fever also held Minnesota to a mere 69 points, nearly 14 points less than their season average of 82.6.
“We did a great job defensively on this team. They didn’t score a three pointer the entire game. We really limited them to something lower than they have been averaging,” Fever guard Briann January said.
The Fever shot an abysmal 34 percent for the game. Indiana averages the second lowest shooting percentage in the WNBA at 39.4 percent. Some of that blame can be contributed to the fact that sharp shooters Katie Douglas and Jeanette Pohlen have played a combined total of 2 games this season.
“I know we struggled quite a bit offensively, but you look down the line if we hit one or two more shots individually we win this game,” Fever forward Tamika Catchings said.
Catchings came close to a double-double despite the poor shooting performance totaling 9 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 5 steals. She has a combined 19 steals in her last four games since returning from a back injury.
Erlana Larkins played well for the Fever recording a season-high 11 points. It is also worth noting that Fever guard Shavonte Zellous has scored double figures in every game this season.
Indiana is slowly creeping towards the championship team they had last year. They hope to use this loss as a lesson and continue to build on the team capable of making another run at the title this year. The Fever’s next game is Saturday night at 7:00 in New York against the Liberty.