If the Indiana Fever end up playing for the WNBA championship, they won’t have taken a conventional road to get there.
Having to fight off elimination for the fourth time in five games, Indiana visits the Connecticut Sun in the decisive Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night.
Indiana dropped Game 1 to Atlanta in the conference semifinals before earning a pair of double-digit victories to advance. After falling 76-64 to Connecticut in the series opener Friday, the Fever again stayed alive Monday when Shavonte Zellous hit a jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining to give them a 78-76 win in Game 2.
Another victory Thursday in Connecticut will send Indiana to the WNBA finals, where defending champion Minnesota waits. The Fever haven’t played for the title since falling to Phoenix in five games in 2009.
“I’m expecting a war when we go up there,” said coach Lin Dunn, whose guarantee for a victory in Game 2 held up. “We are very confident we can go in there and win.”
Former Sun star Katie Douglas scored a game-high 27 points in the series opener and again led all scorers with 24 on Monday. She also was solid in her two previous visits to Connecticut, scoring a team-high 19 points in a 73-67 loss Sept. 19 and netting a game-high 23 in an 88-85 defeat June 19.
“My mentality is just to attack,” Douglas told the team’s official website. “I had the ball in my hands a lot at the top. They were playing me so many different ways.”
Douglas was on the losing end of finals appearances in 2004 and 2005 with Connecticut, which hasn’t won a conference title since.
“I think you’re going to see a very close game in Game 3,” she said. “Everybody’s going to make little counters, little tweaks, little adjustments. I think you’re going to see everybody trying to battle to get that spot in the WNBA finals.”
The Sun will have to rebound after having their six-game winning streak snapped with Monday’s loss.
Allison Hightower scored and was fouled with 12.5 second remaining to tie Game 2, but she missed the ensuing free throw.
“Obviously we thought we gave ourselves a chance to win down the stretch,” said coach Mike Thibault, whose team squandered an early 11-point lead and committed 15 turnovers. “Give Zellous credit, she made a good shot.”
Connecticut has won five straight at home, where they’ll again look to shut down Tamika Catchings after she scored 21 points for the Fever in Game 2.
Jones played solid defense on Catchings in the series opener, forcing the 2011 league MVP to shoot 2 of 14 while holding her to seven points. Catchings, though, went 7 for 16 in Game 2.
Lawson has averaged 20.3 points in three home games versus the Fever this season, and Connecticut has won five of its last six home matchups with Indiana.