Catchings’ injury ends championship hopes
An injury for Tamika Catchings in the decisive Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals ended the best season yet for the Indiana Fever Monday night.
After recovering from a partially torn plantar fascia in her left foot during the regular season, the forward suffered a possible torn Achilles tendon in her right foot just before the end of the first half Monday night.
Indiana was only down by three points at the time, but Detroit and its star guard Deanna Nolan’s 30 points eliminated Indiana from the playoffs 81-65.
Catchings’ injury serves as a reminder to the Fever of what could have been.
When she was healthy, the Fever was the best team in the WNBA. They blazed to a 16-4 start under Catchings’ 16.5 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals a game average before she injured her left foot in late July.
But her absence proved a kind of blessing. While she recovered during the end of the regular season, players such as guard Anna DeForge and forward Tamika Whitmore became more comfortable leading the team on the offensive end. When Catchings rejoined her team against the Connecticut Sun in the first round of the playoffs, all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to be there for Indiana’s first run to the WNBA Championship series.
However, Detroit, combined with Catchings’ injury, was too much for the Fever to overcome.
The Fever couldn’t keep the ball away from Nolan, who averaged 22 points throughout the playoffs.
They also lost the rebounding battle, which head coach Brian Winters said was one of the keys to the series. Indiana was out rebounded by Detroit’s bigger and more physical team by 11 rebounds a game during the conference finals.
Detroit’s defense in the final game was able to shut down Indiana’s star role players for the win.
DeForge and Whitmore averaged a combined 38 points per game during the first five games of the playoffs, but were held to only a combined 11 points in the final game.
The Phoenix Mercury will travel to Detroit to begin the best of five series for the WNBA Championship today airing at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
With Tamika Catchings healthy, the Fever were 19-6. Indiana’s record during the games she missed or left early because of injury was 5-10.
In June, the Fever reached No. 1 in the WNBA.com power rankings for the first time since entering the league in 2000. Their 16-4 start was the best in WNBA history.
The Fever won a record 24 games this season. In the eight years of their existence, they are 132-140.
The opening round series versus the Connecticut Sun was a record-setting round. The triple-overtime game during the first game was the first ever in WNBA playoff history. Indiana lost that game 93-88. In Game 3 of the series, the Fever rallied from the biggest deficit in WNBA playoff history — 22 points — to win the series.
Even though Catchings missed 12 games during the regular season, she still led the league in steals with 3.14 per game.