INDIANAPOLIS – Most of the Fever saw a little bit of greatness from their peers on Tuesday night from their television sets.
Down by 16 in the fourth quarter to Atlanta in the third game of their WNBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals series, Chicago stormed back in eight minutes to overtake the top seed on a bucket by steadily rising superstar Elena Della Donne.
Her 34 points helped the Sky to an 81-80 victory and gave the watching Fever their Eastern Conference Finals opponent-but more importantly the luxury to stay home.
“That’s what we fought so hard to do,” said guard Tamika Catchings of the home floor-which the second-seeded Fever will have over the third-seeded Sky when the finals start Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “Now we’ve got the Eastern Conference Finals and we’re prepared.”
From an experience point of view the Fever should be, considering they’ll be appearing in their fourth consecutive East Finals. Chicago will be heading to the conference finals since they began play in the 2006 season.
But more important than experience for head coach Lin Dunn was her team’s ability to get a little extra rest after a tough but quick series with Washington in the East Semifinals.
“That was tough, tough hard-fought series and it went into overtime. So with our team, because we’re an energy team we needed a break,” said Dunn. “We needed a couple of days to rest to get our legs back and I think that’s going to be the issue: Can Chicago recharge their battery after a three-game series and they have to travel here.
“We want to use our energy early on in the first game.”
They’ll need it to stop Delle Donne, who is quickly showing why she may be the next great player in the WNBA. After averaging 17.9 points per game in the regular season, the second-year player from Delaware has raised her average to 25 in the playoffs which includes the 34 points she had in Game 3.
Dunn says that Catchings will have the primary duty of guard the forward but others may switch depending on who else the Sky have on the floor-but either way it will be a challenge.
“She’s unbelievable,” said guard Shavonte Zellous of Delle Donne. “I really love her game. Six-five, can basically do everything a guard can except she doesn’t like to post up but she can. She’s an unbelievable athlete.”
But at least the Fever get to start off against her and the Sky in familiar territory.