Atlanta, GA -- The Indiana Fever defeated the Dream tonight, and continues to hold onto their No. 3 spot in the East. Washington's game against Atlanta Sunday afternoon will ultimately determine who will secure the No. 3 spot and No. 4 playoff spots in the East. If the Indiana does become No. 3 overall they will face the Chicago Sky, who has swept them 0-4 in the regular season series.
"It really doesn't matter who we will have to play out of the two," said Shavonte Zellous, who had a team-best 14 points. "They have great players...and of course, Elena (Delle Donne) with Chicago and Cappie (Pondexter). So right now we have to be defensive minded.
"We know once we get stops, our transition game is probably the best in the league right now, so we just have to focus on the task at hand. Last game on Sunday and that will determine who we're playing."
Indiana struggled early without star Tamika Catchings, who rested on the bench tonight against Atlanta. The Fever does not have a good track record playing without Catchings, being just 18-31 all time without her, but managed to secure the win without her and go into the playoffs with confidence.
"I'm extremely proud," said head coach Stephanie White "Our team has faced multiple times this year where we've had one or two players that haven't been in, and the strength of our team is in all twelve. When one person goes down another person has the opportunity to come in and to contribute."
Sancho Lyttle, who was the overall leading scorer with 19 points, put the first points up on the board for Atlanta, hitting a jumper within the first minute, that turned into a three-point play after being fouled by Lynetta Kizer.
Kizer picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and ended the game with four overall. Atlanta did not hesitate to penetrate the paint. Lyttle, taking over the three position in the last few games for Atlanta, ran the floor with the guards.
She even seemed to get a few pointers from teammate Angel McCoughtry, after stealing the ball for a fast break layup. Lyttle's ability to dominate the perimeter, as well as the paint, made her the ‘go-to girl' tonight for the Dream and helped Atlanta lead 23-17 going into the second.
Angel McCoughtry was subbed in for the last five minutes of the opening quarter, after coming off the bench for the sixth time this season.
Atlanta, seeming fatigue, allowed Indiana to get three offensive rebounds in a row plus a steal to give them four consecutive offensive possessions. Shavonte Zellous' mid range jumper put the Fever within just one point of the Dream. Moreover, Jeanette Pohlen's 3-pointer gave Indiana their first lead of the night.
Carla Cortijo made her first and last appearance with the Dream this regular season late in the second quarter. Cortijo, who is the first Puerto Rican-born WNBA player, was just added to the team after the franchise was awarded a roster hardship waiver following recent injuries of Roneeka Hodges (calf) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (concussion) and Cierra Burdick (foot).
Back and forth scoring started the second half, with three lead changes in the first three minutes. Indiana, who went into halftime up 38-35, continued to match Atlanta shots, giving them a small lead for the majority of the third quarter. With Zellous benched for foul trouble, Atlanta had a great opportunity to get stops on defense, but could not halt Indiana's momentum.
Cortijo brought the game to a 51-51tie the last seconds of the third quarter, after sinking her second free throw, but similar to the previous quarters, Indiana answered and took the lead back.
McCoughtry was benched the majority of the third with four fouls.
The Fever extended their lead 68-61 after going on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter, and the Dream did not again take a lead.
"Delle Donne is always the focus," said Johnson. "They're a really really good team. Courtney Vandersloot is having the time of her life. She's having a really great season, but we're not really focused on them. If we do what we're supposed to do, I think we'll be all right."
Indiana has one last game against the New York Liberty that separates them and the playoff rounds. If they do fall to the No. 4 spot, this matchup will be great practice for them, as they will then face the Liberty again in the first round of playoffs. They lead they season series against New York 3-1.