October 4, 2015 – Briann January had 19 points and six assists as the Indiana Fever stole home-court advantage in the WNBA Finals with a 75-69 victory over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 on Sunday.
MINNEAPOLIS — The 2015 playoffs continue to follow a familiar script for the Indiana Fever.
Just like they did en route to the franchise’s first WNBA title in 2012, the Fever dropped the first game of their first two playoff series this year, only to rally to win the next two and advance.
Then on Sunday afternoon, they gutted out a 75-69 win in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals in Minnesota. Indiana also won Game 1 on the road against the Lynx in 2012 (by an eerily-similar final score of 76-70) and went on to win the series in four games.
Fever point guard Briann January was spectacular on both ends in the victory, finishing with 19 points, six assists, and two steals.
“Bri was awesome for us,” Fever forward Marissa Coleman said after the win. “I think a lot of times people look at the stat sheet and she might not be scoring. But what she does for us on the defensive end and from a leadership perspective often times isn’t on the stat sheet.
“But today, on both ends, offensively and defensively, she came up huge for us.”
Team captain Tamika Catchings battled through a slow offensive night to finish with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
PHOTO GALLERY: Fever 75, Lynx 69 »
Game 1 got off to a slow start, as both teams managed just 10 points in the first quarter. The Fever made just four of their first 19 shots and fell into a small hole midway through the second quarter, as 2014 WNBA MVP Maya Moore got rolling for the Lynx. Moore scored 15 points in the first half and the Lynx led by as many as five.
But Indiana’s offense finally started to heat up, and their point guard lit the match. January reeled off seven straight points in the second quarter that started a 16-5 Indiana run to close the half.
“Once we slowed down, got our composure, and started executing, we were getting the things that we wanted and that we were looking for,” January said. “That’s something we need to carry on to the next game.”
Her teammates picked it up from there, and closed the half with a spectacular sequence.
With the Fever up four in the closing seconds of the first half, Moore grabbed a defensive rebound and appeared headed the other way for a layup on the other end.
But Catchings came charging from the backside, poked the ball away from Moore at midcourt and into the arms of Coleman. Coleman found Shenise Johnson on the left wing, who dumped the ball inside to Erlana Larkins for a layup just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
“We’ve talked over and over and over all year long about hustle plays,” Catchings said. “Our shots, sometimes they’re going to fall, sometimes they’re not. But being able to get hustle plays, being able to make plays happen, offensively and defensively (is key). Tonight, everybody was ready.”
The Fever maintained their lead for most of the second half thanks to a balanced attack. Catchings, who had just two points at the half, scored five early points in the third quarter. January hit a couple key jumpers when Minnesota seemed poised to close the gap. When the Lynx climbed within three early in the fourth quarter, Johnson scored five straight points.
Still, the home team strung together another rally, reeling off seven unanswered points to finally take a 62-61 lead on Sylvia Fowles’ layup with 4:27 to play.
After the Fever called a timeout, Coleman missed a 3-pointer on the next possession, but January came down with the rebound and eventually found Coleman open on the left wing. This time, Coleman buried the triple to retake the lead.
Indiana stretched its lead to five, as Coleman hit a layup off an inbounds pass and then January knocked down shots on back-to-back possessions.
The Fever point guard picked up her sixth foul with 1:12 to play, allowing Minnesota to cut the lead to 70-67 on a pair of free throws by Moore. Shavonte Zellous answered with a driving layup on the other end, but Moore got a tip-in and the Lynx got a stop to get the ball back with a shot to tie the game in the final seconds.
Once again, Catchings came up with another huge defensive play, stripping Moore to seal the victory. The 10-time All-Star knocked down three free throws down the stretch to provide the final margin.
Coleman finished with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while Zellous and Johnson each had 10.
Moore led all scorers with 27 points and also collected 12 rebounds. Fowles added 21 points and 11 boards. That duo, however, also combined for 11 turnovers in the loss.
The Fever were able to neutralize Minnesota’s size advantage on the afternoon, only losing the battle of the boards by two and actually outrebounding the Lynx 12-11 on the offensive glass. Indiana also took full advantage of Minnesota’s mistakes, knocking down all 16 of their free throw attempts.
Game 2 is back at the Target Center on Tuesday night at 8:00 PM ET.
October 4, 2015 – Fever forward Tamika Catchings discusses Indiana’s 75-69 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Fever point guard Briann January discusses Indiana’s 75-69 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Fever forward Marissa Coleman discusses Indiana’s 75-69 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Tamika Catchings’ steal led to passes from Marissa Coleman to Shenise Johnson to Erlana Larkins, who beat the buzzer for a layup that gave the Indiana Fever a 35-29 halftime lead over Minnesota in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Highlights of Fever point guard Briann January’s 19 points in Indiana’s 75-69 win over Minnesota in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Highlights of Fever forward Marissa Coleman’s 16 points in Indiana’s 75-69 win over Minnesota in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 4, 2015 – Highlights of Fever point guard Briann January’s six assists in Indiana’s 75-69 win over Minnesota in Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.