October 11, 2015 – Shenise Johnson scored a team-high 15 points, Marissa Coleman added 14 points and the Fever forced Game 5 with a 75-69 victory over the Lynx.
White Talks, Fever Listen…And Capture Crucial Win
INDIANAPOLIS – A dominant third-quarter run, sparked by Coach Stephanie White’s blistering speech in a team huddle, propelled the Indiana Fever to a deciding Game 5 of the WNBA Finals.
The Fever had four players in double-figure scoring, led by Shenise Johnson with 15 points, and captured a 75-69 triumph Sunday night over the visiting Minnesota Lynx. Indiana also outscored the Lynx by a 25-6 margin at the free throw line to send the stirring series back to Minnesota for Wednesday night’s final game.
“It’s been a great series,” said Minnesota Coach Cheryl Reeve. “It’s only fitting that we go to five games.”
As for White’s chat with her team, her message was clear and simple. After the Fever led by four at halftime, they saw the Lynx open the third quarter with six straight points, largely because of Indiana miscues. White called timeout with 8:25 left in the period.
PHOTO GALLERY: Fever 75, Lynx 69 (Game 4) »
“I felt like our energy was terrible; our attention to detail was worse,” White said. “I just challenged them: Do you want to see the opponent hoisting up a trophy on our home floor? Or do you want to fight, do you want to compete and do everything that we’ve done to put ourselves in this position?”
Then White walked out of the huddle, leaving her players to ponder her words. The players talked among themselves. And then they responded.
“That really woke us up, and we started playing Fever basketball and got the job done,” said Marissa Coleman, who scored 14 points.
After that momentous timeout, with Johnson and then Coleman generating much of the offense, the Fever began a 13-2 run that swelled to 22-6 by late in the quarter. Indiana’s lead grew to 14 points – the largest of the game.
Indiana scored only one field goal in the fourth quarter, but held the visitors at bay with a 15-of-18 mark at the free throw line.
So now the stage is set for what would rate as a storybook ending for the Fever if they win Game 5 at Minnesota. The Fever opened the season with a rookie head coach and a new offense, stumbling to a 1-4 start. But that rookie, White, righted the ship and her team finished 20-14 and gained the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Then the Fever went 4-0 in elimination games in the conference playoffs, beating higher seeds Chicago and New York. And the Fever’s victory Sunday night upped their all-time record in elimination games at home to 11-2. A crowd of 10,582 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse helped that cause.
“Everybody on our team is so much better today than we were on whatever day we started training camp,” White said. “That’s a tribute to them. … It’s really a unique team and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”
Forward Tamika Catchings has played a huge part, as usual. Her numbers, typically the best on the Fever roster, are down slightly in the Finals series – 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. But every quarter of every game, she is conducting a clinic in leadership.
“It’s not the numbers,” White said about Catchings, who plans to retire after next season. “It’s the way she creates for her teammates, whether it be through her hard-nosed play … her toughness … what she is saying in the huddle.”
It can be expected that Catchings will set the tone on Wednesday, too. Her message to teammates will be consistent and strong.
“I talk to them a lot about, look, this opportunity does not happen often,” Catchings said. “We’ve been very blessed as an organization to be able to make the playoffs 11 straight years. But making it to the Finals…we’ve only been there three times.
“So this doesn’t happen every single year. And every game, you have to take advantage of your next opportunity.”
October 11, 2015 – Players and coaches from both teams speak with the media following the Fever’s 75-69 Game 4 victory.
October 11, 2015 – Indiana Fever players Natasha Howard, Marissa Coleman and Lynetta Kizer discuss the team’s 75-69 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.
October 11, 2015 – After the Fever swiped Game 4 at home on Sunday, 75-69, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and players Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen reacted to the game.
October 11, 2015 – Highlights of Fever guard Shenise Johnson’s 15 points in Indiana’s 75-69 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 4 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.
October 11, 2015 – Fever guard Shenise Johnson swats away Minnesota Lynx guard Anna Cruz’s shot at the rim in the fourth quarter of Indiana’s 75-69 Game 4 victory.
October 11, 2015 – Fever guard Shenise Johnson executes a nice crossover and drives to the rack in the third quarter of Indiana’s 75-69 Game 4 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
October 11, 2015 – Fever guard Briann January drives to the hole for a layup in the third quarter of Indiana’s Game 4 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
October 11, 2015 – Fever point guard Briann January finds a streaking Natasha Howard for a layup in the second quarter of Game 4 of the 2015 WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.
October 11, 2015 – Fever forward Tamika Catchings swats away a shot attempt by Lynx guard Anna Cruz in the first quarter of Game 4 of the 2015 WNBA Finals.