When the Indiana Fever were at their best during Tuesday's 82-74 win over the Tulsa Shock, they went with small lineups.
During an early 9-0 run in the first quarter, they went with a lineup of Tamika Catchings, Jessica Davenport, Katie Douglas, Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen, with Shavonte Zellous checking in for Douglas at one point.
During the last four minutes of the game when they extended their lead to 11, it was Catchings, Davenport, Douglas and Briann January along with either Phillips or Pohlen.
Of course, part of the reason they were able to pull that off against the Shock is that they were a small team across their lineup without center Liz Cambage down low or Amber Holt on the perimeter - playing "small ball" was actually to the Fever's advantage defensively. Nevertheless, in addition to reinforcing just how versatile Tamika Catchings is defensively, the small lineup also showcased how well this team can move the ball at their best.
Key statistic: Fever's elite synergy helps them overcome turnovers
The most impressive thing about this small lineup is that they were remarkably efficient at handling the ball - four players had the assist ratios of a point guard and two had elite pure point ratings.
|Name||Ast Ratio||Turnover Ratio||Pure point rating|
That many players playing that unselfishly (assist ratio) and efficiently (pure point rating) is rare to say the very least. And with some combination of those players on the floor at the Fever's best moments, it shouldn't be surprising that they had an outstanding synergy rating of 1.37 for the game.
Key player: January's career-high 10 assists earn her a double-double
Arguably the most impressive game as a distributor was that of January, who finished the game with an impressive 12 points and career-high 10 assists. Her game against Tulsa was as comfortable as she's looked as a distributor since entering the league and a lot of it was that she was generally under better control than normal while also maintaining her aggression, as shown by having a free throw rate over 100% (which is where she earned some late-game points).
With January playing so well as a lead ball handler and others also distributing the ball efficiently around the perimeter, the Fever were able to overcome an inefficient scoring performance from Catchings. But they got no such shortage of scoring from Katie Douglas.
Fever statistical MVP: Douglas' second quarter scoring keeps them in the game
Tulsa actually took a halftime lead after thoroughly outplaying Indiana in the second quarter, but Douglas' scoring performance is probably why things didn't get too far away from them.
Douglas had 9 of her game-high 22 in the second quarter, including shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc. Her 6-for-9 3-point shooting (tying a career-high for makes) helped her to an outstanding game-high 84.61% true shooting percentage. So with that kind of passing and scoring efficiency on the floor, the Fever could have beaten anyone in the league. But while a lot about their offensive performance was outstanding, they ultimately won the game with defense.
Tulsa statistical MVP: Jennifer Lacy gets a dose of Fever defense in the fourth quarter
Lacy played as well as we've ever seen and finished with 14 points and six boards.
But in the fourth quarter, particularly their game-ending run, their defense - and the Shock's loss of poise - held Lacy to two points on 1-for-1 shooting. It's a rather stark defensive contrast, but that's how the Fever win games and ultimately hope to make it back to the Finals.
But offensively, the Tulsa game was also a blueprint for future lineup successes.