Catchings evens score with Taurasi

By BOB BAUM

AP Sports Writer

The Tamika Catchings-Diana Taurasi matchup is at the heart of these

WNBA finals. Give Game 2 to Catchings, on offense AND defense.

The Indiana

star fell one rebound shy of the first triple-double in WNBA finals history and

the Fever beat the Phoenix Mercury 93-84 on Thursday night to square the

best-of-five series 1-1.

After scoring just eight points and fouling out in Game

1, Catchings had 19 points, 11 assists (tying a finals record) and nine

rebounds to help the Fever steal home-court advantage in the series with the

next two games in Indianapolis, beginning with Game 3 on Sunday.

“Series can swing either way really quick,”

Taurasi said, “and it’s swung in their favor pretty quick now.”

The WNBA defensive player of the year for the third time,

Catchings also harassed the league MVP Taurasi into a 7-for-22 shooting night.

Taurasi finished with 20 points, going 2 of 10 on 3-pointers.

“She almost had a triple double, huh?” Taurasi

said, then whistled in amazement. “You knew she was going come out and

have a great game after Game 1. That’s just the kind of player she is. We all

knew that.”

Catchings wasn’t about to boast of getting the best of

Taurasi.

“Do not underestimate Diana Taurasi ever,”

Catchings said. “For my job, it’s to play defense on D.T. (Taurasi). I

give her props, and it’s a hard job. … She is going to look at both these

tapes and be ready for Game 3.”

There hasn’t been a triple-double in any WNBA game since

2005, and it’s happened only once in the playoffs. When Catchings, runner-up to

Taurasi in the MVP voting, needed only two rebounds in the final six-plus

minutes, it looked as if she would get there. But her ninth didn’t come until

there was just 28 seconds to play.

The cold-shooting Mercury were without supersub Penny

Taylor most of the second half. The Aussie, who scored all 14 of her points in

the first half, took an elbow from Indiana

rookie Briann January and left with a cut lip with 3:33 to play in the third

quarter.

“I haven’t talked to the doctors so I don’t know

exactly what’s wrong, so I don’t want to say something I don’t know for

sure,” Phoenix

coach Corey Gaines said. “I know for sure she’ll play next game. I know

Penny Taylor, she’ll play the next game, for sure, 100 percent.”

January, a standout at nearby Arizona State, finished

with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.

The Mercury struggled on offense two nights after a

120-116 overtime victory in Game 1, the highest-scoring contest in WNBA

history. Phoenix

shot 39.7 percent for the game and was just 5 of 20 in the third quarter, when

the Fever built a 17-point lead.

“I thought we did tonight what we didn’t do the

other night,” Indiana

coach Lin Dunn said. “We had a great defensive effort. The difference 84

and 120 points is — I’m not a math major, you’ll have to tell me — but it’s a

significant amount of points.”

Gaines, however, said he didn’t see much of anything

different in the Fever.

“They played the same type of defense, we just

missed shots,” he said. “We missed m ore shots and we tried to get to

the basket and we missed those shots, too.”

Catchings led six Indiana

players in double figures. Ebony Hoffman also scored 16. Katie Douglas and

Tammy Sutton-Brown each scored 14, and Jessica Davenport added 10.

Temeka Johnson had 14 for Phoenix. Pondexter shot 5 of 16 — 0 of 4 on

3s — en route to 12 points. Tangela Smith also scored 12 for the Mercury.

The Fever, in their first WNBA finals, took control with

a 12-2 run, going up 71-55 after Catchings made two free throws with 2 minutes

left in the third quarter. Davenport

scored the first five points of the run.

Indiana‘s

biggest lead was 77-60 on Hoffman’s 7-footer with 5.6 seconds left in the

third. Johnson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer made it 77-63 entering the fourth.

A late 14-5 run cut the Fever’s lead to 85-80 on

Taurasi’s layup with 1:23 to play. But Sutton-Brown responded with a basket

inside, then January and Douglas put the game

away with free throws.