INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings and her Indiana Fever teammates have almost always found a way to win when facing elimination.
Now, the Fever and their star forward find themselves in that exact situation: another must-win game.
Indiana hosts Minnesota on Sunday night in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. The Lynx hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Article continues below ...
”It’s almost like crawling, scratching, whatever you have to do to win,” Catchings said of the team’s mentality. ”You see the grit and character of this team. We come together at the times we’ve needed to the most. You can see the passion and see we’re playing for each other.”
The Fever are 8-2 in elimination games since the 2012 playoffs, when they beat Minnesota for their lone title. Indiana is 4-0 this season in those games after rallying to beat both Chicago and New York in the opening two rounds of the playoffs after trailing 1-0 in best-of-three series.
The Lynx are the only other team over .500 in elimination games over that span, going 3-2 according to STATS.
Rookie Fever coach Stephanie White has seen her team really grow this season. She had a simple reason for their success with everything on the line.
”Tamika has really found ways to get us going and just has that indomitable spirit and we feed off her,” she said. ”You really don’t have anything to lose, you just go out and play your best.”
While the Fever have had success in those tough moments, they’ve never had to recover from a loss like the one in Game 3. Maya Moore hit a game-winner at the buzzer to lift Minnesota on Friday night.
Still, Catchings isn’t worried.
”It was heartbreaking last night,” Catchings said. ”Today after you look at the film and see all the great things we did do, all the things we did well throughout the game, we’re right there.”
Minnesota knows that it’s going to be tough close out the series. Especially on Indiana’s homecourt. The first three games have been decided by a total of 15 points. Most of the stats are just about even between the teams.
”It’s going to come down to the end, down to the last five minutes, last three minutes, last one minute,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ”Whoever it is that gets the chance to make the last play. Because of that it is a hard out. Whoever it is going to be, it will be a hard out.”
With one more victory, Minnesota will win its third title in five seasons. Only the Houston Comets won more in a similar stretch when they took the first four WNBA titles.
”This series is a long way from being over,” Moore said. ”Each game has come down to a possession or two at the end of the game.”
Moore hopes to be on the court more. She was saddled with foul trouble in Game 3, playing just 12 minutes through the first three quarters. She played the entire fourth period and scored 12 points in the final 10 minutes, including the game-winner in the final 1.7 seconds.
A few keys to Game 4:
BENCH PLAY: Minnesota’s reserves led by Renee Montgomery, Anna Cruz and Devereaux Peters were key to the Lynx’s victory. Montgomery hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game at 77 late in the fourth quarter. The trio combined to help Minnesota’s reserves outscore Indiana’s 28-13.
FOUL TROUBLE: Catchings’ minutes were limited in Game 2 because of fouls. Moore was hampered by them in Game 3. Can both stay on the court in Sunday night’s contest.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF: Game 3 winners have gone on to win the WNBA title in seven of the 10 seasons since the league went to a best-of-five championship in 2005. The Fever, though, can take some solace that in the three WNBA Finals that went to five games, the eventual champion trailed 2-1 after each Game 3.
HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE: Indiana had over 16,000 fans in attendance for Friday night, which created an incredible atmosphere.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg