INDIANAPOLIS – It’s an atypical thing she had to do, but it’s typical of this Fever season.
When guard Briann January was forced out of the team’s game against Seattle Sunday night with a mild concussion, Tamika Catchings was forced to lead the team in a more literal way-not with words or wisdom, but by calling the shots on the offensive end.
“You have a new-found respect for point guards after playing-I’m serious,” Catchings said. “Because it’s easy to play the four, easier than playing the three, and then going to the point guard that’s just like you’re the quarterback of the whole thing-and you get tired fast.”
Yet in a season where pulling more weight is a prerequisite for the Fever-who have seen six of their seven top scorers from the 2012 WNBA Championship team miss time with injuries-Catchings found a way to make all the right calls in the final 20 minutes.
She would finish with a team-high five assists along with leading the Fever with 18 points as they picked up their second consecutive victory 71-63 over the Shock Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“This is one of those games where you’re adapting on the fly,” said Fever head coach Lin Dunn of putting the forward at the point guard-a position she had not played this season.
Catchings said she didn’t even work as a point guard in practice before but having been with Dunn for six seasons she knew the bulk of the playbook. Once the second half began it was Catching’s job to erase a one-point Seattle lead in order to give the injury-depleted Fever their first winning streak of the 2013 season.
“Really just trying to get some post-ups, trying to get some easy shots for everybody,” said Catchings’ of her point guard strategy. “I think that’s the mentality when you go from playing the four and everyone’s looking for you to score to point guard which in my eyes is about putting people in the right position.”
Over the next 20 minutes Catchings was slowly able to get that going. The Fever jumped out to a five-point lead midway through the third quarter but the Storm came back to take the lead in the final minute of the quarter. Shavonte Zellous tied things up at the buzzer with a three-pointer as the teams entered the fourth tied at 50.
Catchings found a good rhythm by getting the ball to her teammates in good position in the final 12 minutes. In the fourth Catchings had three of her team-high five assists as the Fever got the lead as high as ten points before coasting to an eight-point victory.
“It put us in a position where they were not sure about their match-ups,” said Dunn of how Catchings’ switch helped the Fever. “It’s hard for whoever’s defending Catch is not used to defending up top. We just did whatever we had to do to adjust on the fly to try to win the ball game.”
The team’s newest point guard was quick to dish out the praise for the victory as much as she did on the court in the second half. Karima Christmas, a role player-turned-starter because of the injuries-added 12 points while Jessica Breland had ten points along with ten rebounds for her first career double-double.
She, like Catchings, had to move to a bit of an unusual spot on Sunday as she spent most of the second half at the small forward position.
“She comes out and plays a little bit of a three, never practiced the three,” said Catchings. “It’s been an adjustment.”
Just like Sunday-and the season as a whole.