INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever just won’t let their season to end, staving off elimination in the postseason again.
Shenise Johnson scored 15 points and Marissa Coleman added 14 to help the Fever beat the Minnesota Lynx 75-69 on Sunday night, forcing a decisive Game 5 in the WNBA Finals. Indiana is 5-0 in elimination games this postseason.
“Every single person that had gotten in we’ve played for each other,” Catchings said. “We don’t want it to be done yet.”
It’s not just this season that Indiana has done well in elimination games. Starting with the run to the 2012 championship – the franchise’s only one – the Fever are 9-2 in playoff elimination games.
“We have the heart of a champion of a champion – and Tamika Catchings,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “I really love this team. I’ve never been around a team that grown so much in the course of one year, even though we like to make it interesting. We came out, we competed hard and gave ourselves a chance.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Minneapolis, where the Fever won Game 1.
“It gives us confidence knowing that we’ve been able to win on the road all season long,” White said. “We’re happy to be playing another day.”
Catchings had 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
“Whatever it takes,” Catchings said. “Sometimes you’re not really looked at to be the scorer, other people are stepping up and doing their things, so for me it’s just a matter of, ‘What are the little things I can do to keep creating opportunities?'”
Trailing 38-36 early in the third quarter, Indiana took control with a 13-2 run. Johnson scored the final four points of the burst.
Indiana led 51-44 before Coleman scored five straight, including a 3-pointer that gave the Fever the biggest lead of the series for either team at 58-44. That was the Fever’s only basket in a nine-minute stretch. Indiana had just one basket in the final quarter allowing Minnesota to rally within four behind Maya Moore, but the Lynx could get no closer.
The Fever had just one basket in the fourth quarter, a jumper by Johnson with 2:39 left that ended the long field goal drought and gave them some breathing room. They hit 15 free throws in the quarter to maintain their lead.
Moore, who hit the buzzer-beater to win Game 3, led Minnesota with 20 points. Lindsay Whalen added 16.
“Indiana played great, played like a team that didn’t want their season to end,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said.
This is the first WNBA Finals to go five games since 2009 when the Fever lost to Phoenix. Minnesota is trying to win its third title in five seasons. Only the Houston Comets won more in a similar stretch when they took the first four WNBA championships.
The Lynx won their previous two titles on the road in Atlanta in 2011 and 2013. Now they’ll have a chance to win one in front of their home fans.
“Great opportunity for us and our fans who have been with us all season,” Moore said. “That’s the beauty of it. Be ourselves at homes. We have a really good chance if we do that.”
Indiana was able to take advantage of foul trouble to Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles. She only played five minutes in the first half because of three fouls. She picked up her fourth early in the third and that’s when the Fever went on their game-changing run.
The series had been tight through the first three games with neither team building more than a 10-point lead since early in the first quarter of Game 2. Only 15 points total separated the teams in the first three games.
Minnesota got out to a quick 16-11 lead behind a balanced offense. Indiana trailed 24-20 early in the second quarter before Fowles picked up her third foul. The Fever then started to attack the basket, scoring 10 straight points all coming in the paint or on free throws. Johnson capped the run with two foul shots to make it 30-26. The Fever led 36-32 at the half.
Natasha Howard provided a big spark on offense in the second quarter, scoring seven points.
Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who led the NFL team to a win Thursday night over Houston, bought 100 tickets to Game 4 for his daughter’s AAU basketball team and their families. He wasn’t the only pro Indiana athlete in the crowd. A bunch of Pacers were sitting courtside for the second straight game.
Also part of the 10,582 in attendance was Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant and her team, who made the four-hour drive from East Lansing.
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