The Fever were the only home team to lose their playoff opener, and now must win on the road Sunday against the Atlanta Dream to keep alive their season.
This series is a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals from last season, with Atlanta winning in three games. The Fever finished three games ahead of the Dream in the regular season this year.
Atlanta, which has reached the last two WNBA finals, again looked ready for the postseason as it led 25-15 after one quarter and was up 13 heading to the fourth in Friday’s 75-66 victory. Lindsey Harding had 23 points as all five starters scored at least eight for the Dream, who outrebounded the Fever 40-29.
“Its playoff basketball,” coach Fred Williams said. “I was glad the way we had balanced scoring and I thought we really took it to them physically in the second half.”
Douglas was the top scorer for Indiana with 13, although she missed 8 of 12 shots. She insists, however, that the Fever are not headed for a quick exit from the playoffs.
“We don’t need people on our bandwagon,” Douglas said. “We just need 11 women in the locker room and the coaches, that’s who we’re going to Atlanta with. We’re not going to pay attention, no disrespect to the media or the fans.”
Indiana likely will need more from Douglas and former MVP Tamika Catchings on Sunday. Catchings made 2 of 11 shots and finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“We need to regroup, bring our ‘A’ game and start with an energy and intensity,” coach Lin Dunn said.
Dunn’s team was only 2-3 on the road in September and that included a Sept. 5 defeat to Atlanta, which won its final five home games of the regular season.
January was hit in the chest with an errant elbow from Angel McCoughtry just before halftime. Although January returned at the 6:26 mark of the fourth quarter, the incident only highlighted the physical nature of Game 1.
“I do think we’ve had to go through some turmoil here with people being out, coming back, rotating the lineups and it can be disruptive but you can’t let that bother you,” Dunn said. “You can’t make excuses.”
Turmoil has been a problem for Atlanta this season, with the club replacing coach Marynell Meadors with Williams on Aug. 27. It’s also included suspensions to WNBA leading scorer McCoughtry, but the Dream clearly look built for the playoffs.
“We definitely wanted to punch first,” Harding said. “This is a team that usually has very good first and third quarters with running. We knew that we had to not just match it, but overpower (them).”
Now the Fever must avoid being overpowered out of the postseason.
“We’ll be ready Sunday,” Douglas said. “We need to go with more of a sense of urgency and start with more confidence.”