Fever-Mystics Preview

The Associated Press

Tamika Catchings has been a force for the Indiana Fever since she returned from missing the first half of the season with a back injury.

After sparking her squad to victory in Game 1, the 35-year-old veteran looks to help the Fever close out this best-of-three first-round series against the Washington Mystics on the road Saturday night.

Catchings averaged a team-best 16.1 points in 16 regular-season games after making her return July 5 and helped Indiana win its final three contests to secure the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.

She was even better down the stretch Thursday, scoring 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with 10 rebounds and seven steals to lead the Fever to a 78-73 win over the Mystics.

''You have to bring more than just scoring. For me starting off the game slow, even though I wasn't hitting my shots, they were good shots,'' Catchings said. ''Once I started getting more aggressive, we all started getting more aggressive.''

Catchings matched the WNBA record for steals in a regulation playoff game and also hit all 14 of her free throws. The 2011 league MVP is 21 points away from becoming the league's all-time playoff leading scorer.

She's spent her entire 13-year career with the Fever, who have won a game in a WNBA-record eight straight postseasons, including the 2012 title.

''The thing that's so special about her is that she's so multidimensional,'' said coach Lin Dunn, who will retire when Indiana's season ends. ''She's doing something everywhere. She's a once-in-a-lifetime player and I'm privileged and honored that I've gotten to coach her.''

Indiana will look to advance to the East finals for the fourth time in five seasons with another victory over the Mystics, who have lost four of their last five.

Washington shot 42.9 percent from the field in Game 1 as Ivory Latta hit 8 of 15 and scored a team-high 22 points. Emma Meesseman added 17 and six rebounds.

The Fever were a bit too physical for Latta's liking, though.

"We know in the playoffs things are going to get more physical, but some of it is unnecessary," Latta said. "For me personally, I just can't let it get to me. We just have to keep our heads up, get ready for Saturday and we'll be fine."

Coach Mike Thibault noted that Catchings' performance was the difference, and his squad likely will have to do more to slow her down if it wants to keep its season alive.

The Mystics lost both home meetings with the Fever by three points each despite Catchings missing both while still nursing her injury. They know they can play with Indiana, having erased a 10-point deficit to lead by six at halftime in Game 1.

''We've got to give ourselves a chance,'' Thibault said. ''If we can win on Saturday at home, who knows what happens on Monday (in a potential Game 3).''

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