Minneapolis, MN -- In a decisive game with so much on the line, sometimes it's the little things that get forgotten and left behind. Little things like the ability to get to the free throw line can determine and separate the winners from the losers, like it did for the Minnesota Lynx as they beat the Indiana Fever 69-52.
When shots do not fall, every player knows that driving to the basket and getting second chances at the line are their safest bet. The Indiana Fever had half of this equation as their shots were not falling, shooting a mere 35% from the field. Although, only three players were able to make their way to the line, with Tamika Catchings making four out of the team total six free throws.
"We weren't playing our style of basketball," Fever guard Briann January said. "We kind of got away from what was working for us, it allowed them to get some easy buckets, allowed them to get on a run, and then we were playing catch‑up. So we put ourselves in a tough situation."
The opposite was happening for the Lynx, as they shot 41% from the field and were able to make it to the line a total of 18 times, making 15 of those attempts. Sylvia Fowles earned six of her 20 points from the charity stripe alone.
For a decorated veteran like Catchings, no amount of heroic effort can overcome simple stats, as her 18-point performance was unable to mask the other statistical woes the Fever came across.
"No matter what happened tonight, I was going to be proud of this group," Catchings said. "This group was‑ it's been an amazing journey this year."
With the last four games of the Finals being decided by an average of 5.3 points, this game was anticipated to be a fight to the finish. The stark contrast between this game compared to the others was the amount of fouls given. With that being said, personal fouls have a direct correlation with free throw attempts.
"We played every possible game in every series, and each one of those has been highly charged emotionally," Fever Head Coach Stephanie White said. "But at the same time, I felt like some of our decision‑making showed a little bit of fatigue."
This came to light in the third quarter, as the seven-point lead going into the quarter turned into a 19-point edge going into the fourth.
In Indiana's case, three of the top four contributors had at least three personal fouls, with Shenise Johnson adding five to the team total of 21. Minnesota on the other hand, had only one player that reached double figures have more than three fouls, which was Rebekkah Brunson with four. This gave the Lynx the ability to continue their intensity and pressure throughout the game.
Lynx guard Maya Moore spoke on the intensity, saying "All that full‑court pressure that both teams were applying. Our guards coming off the bench were instrumental to continuing that pressure. You can't give them enough credit for that."
With this win, the Minnesota Lynx earned their third WNBA title in the last five years, while the Indiana Fever completed their 11th straight year in the playoffs. With Catchings retiring after next season, the Fever will have one last shot in the upcoming season to earn the title with her help and let her end her very accomplished and decorated basketball career on a high note.