Recapping the Fever’s 2012 Championship Run: Knocking off Connecticut for East Title

By Brendan Rourke

Although Indiana tied its franchise record with 22 wins during the regular season, another team earned the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Setting themselves apart from the pack, Tina Charles the Connecticut Sun finished with a 25-9 regular-season record. The Sun swept their foe in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the New York Liberty, to meet the Fever in a battle for the ages.

The 2-0 series win gave the Sun a six-day break while Indiana took three games to defeat the Atlanta Dream, thus raising the age-old “rest versus rust” debate between media members. While the Fever hoped to use the momentum gained from their Game 3 victory over the Dream, the Sun inevitably earned a point for the “rest” side of the debate.

After a strong opening frame, the Fever scored just eight points in the second quarter and 13 points in the third as the Sun took control of the game. Indiana eventually fell, 76-64, in front of a hostile crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena in Game 1.

Katie Douglas had her usual dominant performance, posting a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including five 3-pointers. However, her other teammates had issues finding the same success. No other teammate finished in double figures. Erlana Larkins finished as the second-highest Fever scorer with nine points.

Douglas’ usual scoring partner, Tamika Catchings, tallied seven points on just 2-of-14 shooting on an off night. Sun forward Asjha Jones did a superb job locking down Catchings throughout all four quarters.

Meanwhile, Charles (18 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks) and three other players finished in double figures for the Sun. Charles did most of her scoring in the second half, notching 14 points to help keep the Fever at bay for the rest of the game.

The loss set up an all-too-familiar scenario for the Fever during the playoffs with one difference. This time, when faced with elimination, Indiana had the crowd behind its back.

On Oct. 8, the two teams met for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and both squads proved to fans why they earned seeds 1 and 2 during the regular season. Luckily, the Fever had the last laugh.

With 0.5 seconds remaining, Fever guard Shavonte Zellous drilled a game-winning, 13-foot jumper to force a third game in the series. The jumper lifted the Fever over the Sun, 78-76, in front of the home crowd

Douglas continued her hot streak, totaling 24 points, while Catchings found her rhythm. The WNBA legend notched 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting, four rebounds, and three steals. Indiana managed to escape an early 11-point deficit to keep the game close and set up Zellous’ shot.

With Indiana leading 76-74 and 12.5 seconds remaining, Sun guard Allison Hightower hit a baseline runner through a foul. But, she missed the ensuing free throw. Tamika Catchings corralled the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Briann January. January rose for a layup but missed. Zellous, who had started celebrating, quickly noticed the misfire and sprung into action. January tipped the ball out to Zellous, who then drove along the baseline and nailed the jumper. Then, the true celebration began.

However, the squad quickly returned to business three days later.

On Oct. 11, Indiana traveled to Mohegan Sun Arena full of confidence. However, adversity struck again when Katie Douglas exited the game with an ankle injury five minutes into the first quarter.

Nonetheless, the squad’s determination shined through, as Indiana outscored Connecticut 68-48 over the first three quarters to secure a dominant 87-71 victory and a berth in the 2012 WNBA Finals.

Five Fever players erupted for 11 points or more, with Catchings leading the way with a game-high 22-point, 13-rebound double-double. Erin Phillips followed with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Jeanette Pohlen added a team-high 14 points off the bench, and Zellous notched 11.

“When Katie went down, you could just see the fire in everybody’s eyes,” coach Lin Dunn said. “We just took it to a whole other level. We could have folded up our little tent and gone home when one of our bigguns got hurt. But we didn’t.”

The soaring victory meant two things for the Fever. First, Catchings was just three games away from her first WNBA title. Second, they were going to face one of the most dominant teams all season, Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx.