Mystics-Fever Preview

The Associated Press

The Indiana Fever spent part of Wednesday celebrating Tamika Catchings' third Olympic gold medal.

The reigning MVP knows it's back to work Thursday night.

Catchings and the Fever return from the month-long Olympic hiatus as they face the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Mystics, who will try to win two straight for the first time in nearly two years.

Four days after helping the U.S. run its Olympic winning streak to 41 with an 86-50 victory over France, Catchings was back with Indiana on Wednesday. Point guard Briann January had fun posing with Catchings' gold medal and veteran forward Tammy Sutton-Brown "handled it the most," according to the Fever's official Twitter account, but Indiana (10-7) has business to take care of as the second half begins.

The Fever lost 77-74 to Los Angeles in their last game July 12 and trail East-leading Connecticut by four games.

Just hours after winning gold, Catchings already had her sights set on closing that gap.

"Fresh off the Gold Medal n on to the 2nd half of the WNBA season...," she wrote on her Twitter account Saturday.

While Indiana continues its season-high stretch of six straight home games, the Mystics (4-14) open the second half with road games on back-to-back nights against the Fever and defending champion Minnesota.

Washington has a large hill to climb if it's going to be part of the playoff conversation, but a 70-53 victory at New York in its last game July 13 could be a second-half spark. The Mystics had dropped 16 straight on the road.

"We just have to build on it and move forward," said coach Trudi Lacey, whose team hasn't won two straight since winning the final six games of the 2010 regular season.

Washington didn't have any players on the U.S. Olympic roster, but assistant Jennifer Gillom is hoping to share some of her lessons from London after serving on coach Gino Auriemma's staff.

"I come in with the attitude of 'Hey, I didn't get there by not working hard. I didn't get there by not putting in the work.' That's something I can share with them and get them to strive to be better, if not an Olympic gold medal, just be the best you can be," she told the Mystics' official website. "I'm hoping that's something they can look up to and follow."

Mystics leading scorer Crystal Langhorne had team highs of 18 points and 15 rebounds in Washington's last visit to Indiana, an 87-69 loss Sept 7. Langhorne's 22 points and 13 boards helped Washington beat the Fever 67-66 on June 15 to end a five-game skid in this series.

Catchings led Indiana with 15 points in that contest but missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left, and Katie Douglas missed at the buzzer.

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