The 2015 WNBA playoffs thus far have been everything fans, players and coaches have longed for. For the first time since 2009, the finals will head into Game 5 between the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever; two squads rallying behind their veterans in Maya Moore and Tamika Catchings, yet still relying on bench and role players alike.
From comeback wins to buzzer beaters, this year's series has been one for the books. Rest assured, Game 5 looks just as promising in terms of viewer experience. Two rosters infused with leadership, and some of the league's top talent will go head-to-head for what every player in the WNBA dreams of: a world championship. Can the Lynx take the heat? Or will Minnesota roar past the Fever?
In 2012, fans saw an identical matchup where the Fever finished on top with a final series record against Minnesota of 3-1. Fast-forward to 2015 and we have a rather different story. The Fever secured Game 1 (Oct. 4) and Game 4 (Oct. 11) where free throws seemed to be the deciding factor in both games.
Despite shooting 36% from the field in Game 1, Indiana recorded a perfect 16-16 from the line to lift them over Minnesota 75-69 on the road. Five players finished the game in double figures for the Fever as Briann January cashed in a team-high 19 points and six assists.
Much of the same can be said for Game 4 in that the Fever attempted 29 free throws to Minnesota's six, cruising to a 75-69 victory, this time on their home floor. Indiana led by as much as 14 points in Game 4, yet the Lynx clawed their way back into the game, even with Sylvia Fowles on the bench with foul trouble.
Despite Moore scoring 27 and 20 points respectively in the Fevers' victories, in addition to Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus' key contributions, the Fever has continued to find ways to get the job done when it matters the most.
In Minnesota's Game 2 (Oct. 6) and Game 3 (Oct. 9) wins, the combination of Moore as a second-half sensation and foul trouble on the Fever's Tamika Catchings were critical in the Lynx's wins.
In Game 2, Minnesota trailed by nine points in the third quarter but came back to win it as fueled by Moore's 14 points in the second half alone. Fowles also chipped in 21 points and nine rebounds for the Lynx, helping dilute January's damage against them yet again in scoring 17 points and dishing out five assists.
Fourteen second-half turnovers for the Fever also came back to bite them in Game 2. Game 3 was arguably the best game of the series. Both teams shot a stellar 50% from the field, yet Moore sealed the win with 1.7 seconds left in her Sports Center Top 10 freeze finish from three-point land.
‘Catch' Her if You Can
Take one hard look at the Fever's starting five, and you'll recognize the immense value that Catchings brings to her team. Even in averaging much below her regular-season averages in 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the finals, she remains the core of the Fever roster.
One cannot be fooled by the foul trouble or less points scored in the four games played, because she is the glue to that team on the bench, in the huddles, in the locker room, and on the court.
We Want Moore
Need I say, Moore? Probably not, but Moore has continually proved her clutch gene is fully activated this time of the year. She has gone off for 27 points, 20 points, 19 points, and 24 points averaging 22.5 points per game in the finals series thus far.
Not to mention, a good chunk of her average comes in the third and fourth quarters. Moore is a player that has been in this position before and knows what it will take to win another WNBA title at age 26.
Some would be surprised that the Fever are even in this position, competing for a WNBA championship, to begin with. Head Coach Stephanie White has completely turned the program around after a 1-4 start to the regular season.
Minnesota's Head Coach Cheryl Reeve may have the upper hand in experience, but White has consistently proved her ability to get her team to respond in the face of adversity.
Indiana has only advanced to the Finals three times in program history while the Lynx are back for the fourth time in the last five years. If Indiana wins, it will be their second championship in franchise history and the first time in WNBA history a rookie coach has won it all.
Home Court Advantage
If any team were to beat the Lynx on their home court, it would be the Fever. It isn't easy to do as they have the best home court record of 13-4 in the WNBA regular season, but Indiana has done it before.
This belief, in addition to how they have been playing when their backs are against the wall, could move mountains for Indiana. With that, there is no denying the Lynx play some of their best basketball at home. And with a WNBA title on the line? It could be dangerous for the Fever.
Keys to the Game
- Keep Indiana off the free throw line
- Stay out of foul trouble
- Limit players like January and Johnson
- Don't get down by more than 10 points
- Follow Moore's lead
- Take care of the ball
- Continue to make free throws
- Stay out of foul trouble
- Four to five players in double figures
- Follow Catchings' lead