Dream-Fever Preview

The Associated Press

After the Atlanta Dream eliminated them from last year's playoffs, the Indiana Fever have a chance to return the favor.

Indiana hosts Atlanta in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday night.

The Fever went 22-12 to match the winningest season in franchise history and are making their eighth consecutive postseason appearance after locking up the East's No. 2 seed. They beat New York in the first round of the 2011 playoffs before falling to Atlanta (19-15) in the conference finals.

Indiana, though, took three of five regular-season matchups from the third-place Dream, including both home meetings by an average of 11.0 points.

"That gives us some confidence going into these playoffs," coach Lin Dunn told the Fever's official website.

While Tamika Catchings has led Indiana to the conference finals four times and one WNBA finals appearance over the past seven years, she's hoping to take the next step in 2012.

"When you look at it from a standpoint of having all the individual accomplishments but looking at it in the big picture and wanting a team accomplishment, this is it," said Catchings, the WNBA's all-time leader in steals and free throws made.

Catchings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time All-Star, also remains very much in the running for her second consecutive league MVP.

"It's definitely a great award, it's a great accomplishment, but at the end of the day, you guys know what I want," she said. "I want a championship. If I don't win MVP but we get a championship, I will be the happiest person in the world."

Coming off back-to-back trips to the WNBA finals, Atlanta also enters the postseason with high hopes.

It's been somewhat of a turbulent year for the Dream, who promoted Fred Williams to coach and general manager after firing Marynell Meadors - the only coach the franchise had ever known - in late August.

Atlanta, which has won seven of 10 with Williams at the helm, put together a season-best four-game winning streak before falling 92-72 at Connecticut in Sunday's regular-season finale.

While Indiana's offense runs though Catchings, the Dream figure to go as far as Angel McCoughtry will take them. Besides posting a league-best 2.5 steals per game, McCoughtry averaged 21.4 points to become the first player in team history to lead the WNBA in scoring.

McCoughtry scored a combined 53 points in Games 2 and 3 of last year's conference finals to help eliminate Indiana.

The Fever might be better prepared this season, however, having finished second in the league in points allowed (72.3 per game).

"I won't say this is the greatest defensive team that we've had, but it certainly is one of our top three," Dunn said.

Indiana is riding some momentum after winning its last two regular-season games, 66-53 at Washington last Friday and 91-58 over Tulsa two days later.

Erin Phillips matched a career high with 21 points Sunday while Catchings added 20 to go along with 10 rebounds.

"When we play together and when we communicate and everybody is clicking on defense, our team looks amazing," said Catchings, whose 82nd double-double moved her into second place all-time.

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