Dream-Fever Preview

The Associated Press

With Tamika Catchings back in the groove, the Indiana Fever are hoping to cut down a sizable deficit in the Eastern Conference.

The Fever can take a significant step by winning the season series finale against the first-place Atlanta Dream on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

Catchings missed the first 17 games with a sore back and scored six points on 1-of-7 shooting in her return last Saturday, a 71-70 loss to visiting San Antonio. In the Fever's ensuing back-to-back victories, she's had a combined 44 points on 16-of-29 shooting and 18 rebounds.

Catchings made the tiebreaking layup in a 78-76 win at Tulsa on Tuesday and scored 21 on Thursday as Indiana snapped a four-game home losing streak with a 72-68 victory against Connecticut.

"Having her in crunch time is huge for this team," coach Lin Dunn said after the opener to a season-high four-game homestand. "It gives the team a lot of confidence that no matter what the score is we can come back and win."

Indiana (10-10) is four games behind Atlanta (13-5) in the East, and the Fever will try to help themselves in that race by winning the season series. The road team has won each time as they've split four meetings.

Catchings' return came after Indiana's 77-70 win over Atlanta on July 1. Karima Christmas had a season high-tying 18 points but was held to nine on 2-of-8 shooting two days earlier in a 76-68 loss.

Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 20 points in that victory and is averaging 20.8 in the four matchups.

McCoughtry had 12 of her 22 points in the third quarter Tuesday in Atlanta's second straight win and 10th in 12 games, 83-71 against the Sun. Tiffany Hayes chipped in 17 points.

"Each game is important for us because it's leading us on the path to where we want to end up, and that's a championship," coach Michael Cooper said.

The Dream acquired DeLisha Milton-Jones from New York on Wednesday for Swin Cash, an exchange of veteran forwards and former All-Stars. Milton-Jones averaged 5.7 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Liberty while Cash was averaging 1.5 points and 0.9 rebounds.

"DeLisha is very familiar with coach Cooper's system, fits our offensive and defensive philosophies, and brings a championship pedigree to our locker room," president and general manager Angela Taylor said in a statement.

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