By Brendan Rourke
The 2012 Indiana Fever squad persevered through adversity while facing elimination in both the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Eastern Conference Finals. Their reward? A matchup against Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA Finals. During the regular season, the Lynx recorded a league-best 27-7 record, including a 10-game winning streak to kick off their campaign. They dropped just one playoff game leading up to their meetup with the Fever.
However, Indiana was not deterred in the slightest.
Knowing Minnesota had homecourt advantage, the Fever knew they had to make a statement. On Oct. 14, 2012, Tamika Catchings, Erlana Larkins, and company proved Indiana was worthy of being the Eastern Conference’s representative.
Playing without Katie Douglas, the Fever toppled the Lynx, 76-70, in Game 1 at Target Center. Four Fever players finished in double figures, with Catchings tallying 20 points, six rebounds, three steals, and four blocks. Larkins added a 16-point, 15-rebound double-double, including seven offensive boards, and Erin Phillips recorded 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
“We came in here without any fear,” coach Lin Dunn said postgame.
The Fever held a 10-point lead in the second quarter until the Lynx roared back to take a 54-50 lead halfway through the third quarter. However, Indiana’s defense tightened up in the fourth, allowing just 12 points in the final frame. At one point, the Lynx misfired on 12 consecutive attempts, stifling any comeback hopes for the hosts.
The Fever carried that momentum into the first quarter of Game 2. The squad held the league’s top offense to just 11 points in the frame. However, the Lynx eventually righted the ship in the second half and flipped the script.
Led by Seimone Augustus’ 23 second-half points, Minnesota outscored Indiana 52-38 in the second half to take home an 83-71 win to even the series. Augustus finished tied with Catchings for a game-high 27 points. Maya Moore backed up Augustus’ performance with 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep.
However, Indiana’s confidence did not waver, knowing the next pair of games would be in front of a home crowd. Coach Dunn had the perfect message following the loss.
“We’ll go home, and we’ll be ready,” she said.
And they were.
On Oct. 19, the Fever smothered the Lynx’s potent offense in front of a crowd of 18,000+ at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Indiana routed Minnesota, 76-59, to take a 2-1 series lead. The squad held the visitors to 38 points over three quarters, including 11 points in the second and third. The Fever’s 70-33 advantage with 1:58 left in the third quarter was the largest by any team in WNBA Finals history. They entered the fourth quarter with a 32-point advantage before cruising to the win.
The first offensive star of the game belonged to Shavonte Zellous, who notched what was then a career high of 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting. She also went a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe to bolster Indiana’s scoring efforts. Catchings finished as the Fever’s second-leading scorer with 17 points, while Erlana Larkins tallied a 10-point, 15-rebounds double-double.
“That Game 2 left a bad taste in our mouth,” Zellous said postgame. “You know, we could have done a better job in a lot of different things, and I think today, we made a conscious effort to do things better.”
Indiana was now one game away from their first WNBA Championship.
On Oct. 21, 2012, Gainbridge Fieldhouse was filled with excited fans, hoping for a chance to witness another chapter in Indiana’s storied basketball history. And when the clock struck zero in the fourth, that chapter was published.
Playing solid all night, the Fever took home their first WNBA Championship with an 87-78 victory over the Lynx in front of a home crowd. After 12 years, Catchings was a WNBA Champion. She tallied a game-high 25 points, four boards, eight assists, and Finals MVP honors.
Indiana stayed in control for the majority of the game. Minnesota held just three slim leads throughout the bout, all in the first quarter (2-0, 4-2, and 6-5). After that, they could not manage more than a tie score. The Fever held 5-point leads after the second and third quarters before outscoring the Lynx 24-20 in the fourth to secure the title.
Phillips (18 points), Zellous (15 points), and Briann January (15 points) joined Catchings in finishing with double figures. Douglas, who had left Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals early with an ankle injury, earned a standing ovation from the crowd after checking in with 3.2 seconds left.
“When you come into this league, your goal and dream is to win a WNBA championship,” Catchings said postgame. “Twelve years later…it’s so sweet right now.”
“We’ve been through so much as a team,” Phillips said. “We’ve lost in crucial times, and we’ve stuck together. I’m just so proud right now.”
Despite facing playoff elimination twice, once on the road, the Fever defied expectations and claimed a WNBA title. Ten years later, the squad hopes a return to glory is on the horizon. As Indiana builds its roster carefully, the 2012 championship reminds this current team of two things:
First, is that they have been at the top.
Second, is that they can do it again.