INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Briann January scored 19 points, Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas added 17 each, and the Indiana Fever beat the Chicago Sky 81-64 Saturday night to get their season-high fifth straight win and clinch their eighth straight playoff berth.
Catchings also had 10 rebounds for the Fever (17-8), who moved two games behind first-place Connecticut in the Eastern Conference. Indiana, which has won seven of eight since the Olympic break, tied Seattle (2004-11) and Los Angeles (1999-06) for the longest consecutive postseason appearances in league history.
“In training camp we wanted to focus on the little things and small goals and build up and become better as a team,” January said. “We’re taking things from every game and every day in practice.
“I think that’ll help us in the long run and get us to where we want to be.”
Epiphanny Prince scored 22 points to lead the Sky (9-16), which has lost 11 of its last 12. Chicago dropped one-half game behind New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. The Sky have nine games remaining, including one at New York on Friday night.
Chicago took a 15-5 lead as the Fever missed 10 of their first 11 shots. However, Indiana had an 18-3 run and took a 45-31 lead at the break. The Fever had five layups in six possessions during on stretch and ran away with a fast-break that included a rebound by Catchings, an outlet to Douglas whose touch pass led to a layup by Shavonte Zellous. Douglas knocked down a 23-foot bank shot at the buzzer.
“We started the game very sluggish,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said. “The good news is we weathered their hot shooting in the first quarter and were able to chip away and really get control of the game in the second quarter.”
The Sky shot 29 percent from the field in the second quarter while the Fever shot 67 percent.
“I thought we took our defense up a notch or two, turned them over a couple times, got some run-outs and then just kind of established our will the rest of the game,” Dunn added.
Chicago leading scorer Sylvia Fowles, back after missing two games, went to the locker room in tears early in the third quarter with an apparent injury to her lower right leg. She returned to the bench but did not play, finishing with two points and two rebounds in about 11 minutes.
“We had 20 turnovers and 10 assists,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “That’s a ratio 2-to-1. We didn’t recover from that.”
Prince added: “I thought they beat us to every loose ball. We didn’t play defense like we’re capable of. They seemed to get every shot that they threw up at the buzzer. We didn’t take advantage of the switches on defense.”“
Douglas tied a career-high with five steals and moved to No. 4 on the WNBA’s all-time list with 579.