By Brendan Rourke
As with all great championship runs, there has to be a starting point. And for the 2012 Indiana Fever, their road to glory began on May 19. After posting back-to-back 21-13 records during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the squad felt primed for another strong run at a WNBA title. When Indiana started the 2012 season 4-0 and finished the season tying a franchise-high with 22 wins, they knew they had something special.
The Fever dominated their opponents early on, winning by no fewer than eight points in their first four contests. On June 2, the squad steamrolled the New York Liberty, 91-68. The dynamic duo of 2011 league MVP Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas anchored the team. Both players finished in double figures in all four games. On May 25 against the Chicago Sky, the tandem finished over the 20-point mark. Catchings posted 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while Douglas followed with 21 on a stellar 8-of-11 night from the field. Center Jessica Davenport also played a pivotal role during the early streak, finishing in double figures in three of the first four games. Additionally, she was a defensive stalwart, tallying five blocks during the four-game run.
However, the good vibes did not last the entire season. The squad hit some adversity as the remainder of June and July brought less-fortunate outcomes. Just 24 hours after their 23-point win against the Liberty, New York returned the favor, delivering Indiana a 15-point loss in Madison Square Garden — its first of the season. The Fever would drop the next two games, including a tough 67-66 loss to the Washington Mystics. It was one of the Mystics’ five wins during the 2012 WNBA season.
The squad rallied during the latter half of June, tallying a 4-2 record over the last six games to even the month-long record at 5-5. Although Catchings remained dominant, she also received help from several team members in the scoring department. Davenport, Briann January, and Shavonte Zellous each posted team-high scoring totals during wins as June’s schedule closed out. The squad also split July’s short four-game schedule (2-2) before the league took a hiatus so athletes could participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where Catchings help lead USA Basketball to a gold medaal.
When the league returned to action, the Fever found another gear. The squad rolled through its August schedule with a stellar 6-1 record, righting the ship after a mediocre June and July. Douglas and Catchings finished as the team’s highest scorers in two games apiece, while January and Erlana Larkins grabbed that honor one time each. On August 23, the Fever escaped Seattle with a 68-66 win over Sue Bird and the Storm after outscoring the hosts 26-15 in the fourth quarter. Indiana entered the final frame trailing by nine points.
On Sept. 1, January dropped a team-high 19 points to lead the Fever past the Sky, 81-64, to claim the team’s eight-straight playoff berth. However, they were hungry for more. The squad won two of its next three outings to earn a 20-9 record with five games left to set a new franchise high for regular season wins.
Unfortunately, that plan hit a snag, as the squad dropped its next three games, including a tough 66-64 defeat to the Minnesota Lynx at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Indiana outscored Minnesota 16-12 in the final frame, but it was not quite enough.
Yet, with the help of Erin Phillips, the Fever rallied to win their final two games of the regular season dominantly. On Sept. 21, Phillips led the team with 19 points to defeat the Mystics 66-53. Two days later, she finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including four triples, to topple the Tulsa Shock, 91-58.
When the regular season finished, the Fever claimed the second seed in the Eastern Conference, three games behind the Connecticut Sun, and finished with a conference-best 13-4 home record.
Then, the nail-biting playoff run began.