Fever stay defensive as they head to the East Finals

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INDIANAPOLIS – After a decade of play with the Fever-and six seasons with Lin Dunn-Tamika Catchings is well aware of what teams expect when they face the defending WNBA Champions.

“Defense and rebounding, we talked about that all year long,” said the forward of the Fever’s priorities when it comes to their play. “Defense being the staple for the team, what we’re known for.”

Certainly it’s been their calling card early in the 2013 WNBA Playoffs. With solid defensive play they made the top -eeded Chicago look very young in a two-game sweep of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series. The Fever held the Sky to an average of 65 points and a shooting percentage of 35 percent while also outrebounding them by 19 over two games leading to a relatively easy first round match-up.

It’s defense the Fever will need again as they prepare for their third consecutive Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta starting on Thursday. With one of the top scorers in the WNBA in Erica de Souza (18 points a game) and one of the best overall players in the game in Angel McCoughtry (17 points, 4.3 assist a game), Indiana will need its defense now more than ever.

“They’ve bought into the core value, our identity. Who are we? We defend, we rebound, we play hard,” said head coach Lin Dunn. “To me, you have to have that. The teams that are going to get to the Finals, the two teams that end up in the finals, they have that mentality.”

What the Fever also have is a defender who for a second straight season is heating up in the playoffs. Erlana Larkins followed up a strong 2012 postseason by posting back-to-back double-doubles against Chicago while picking up 22 total rebounds against the Sky.

Since she’s joined the Fever, the team is 7-2 in playoff games where Larkins stars.

“We’ve just upped our level of intensity. This is now a new season as everyone would say. It’s either win or go home-and we’re not trying to go home,” said Larkins. “We’ve just given that much more of whatever we have left.”

If they continue to defend, it could be a lot.