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Delle Donne struggles as Fever beat Sky when it matters most, force Game 3

The Indiana Fever showed a lot of resolve, spearhead by none other than their captain and veteran leader, Tamika Catchings. The Fever forced a Game 3 back in Chicago.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Sky beat the Fever four times during the 2015 regular season by an average of 19.75 points and led the Eastern Conference Semifinals 1-0 going into Saturday's matchup.

The Sky traveled to Indiana to close out the semifinals, but the Fever had other plans, claiming an 89-82 win to stay alive and even the series at 1-1. Game 3 will take place in Chicago at 8 p.m.

The win gives the Fever (20-14) a playoff victory for the ninth consecutive year and the first for head coach Stephanie White. It also snapped a seven-game losing streak to Chicago (21-13) dating back to last year's playoffs.

"I think tonight we just came out with a lot more focus," Indiana's Tamika Catchings said. "Not to say we weren't focused in game one, but definitely down the stretch our focus seemed like it magnified. We executed offensively and defensively. Everybody zoned in. You could see it in their eyes.

"The first game we were so tense, like we wanted to win so bad and everybody individually wanted to win it down the stretch, we just kind of fell apart a little bit," Catchings added. "But I thought tonight we just had fun."

Catchings led the Fever in her 21st elimination game appearance with 22 points and nine rebounds, and as usual, the seasoned playoff veteran came in clutch for her team.

With just 2:59 left to play, Courtney Vandersloot, who finished with 19 points and six assists, pulled the Sky within 82-85.

The teams had been trading the lead back and forth the entire second half. The Fever built up as high as a seven-point lead, and the Sky a six-point lead.

But following an Indiana timeout, it was none other than Catchings who nailed a 20-foot jumper on one end, then to turn around and get a deflection on the other. That deflection led to a Fever steal with just 27 seconds remaining and an 87-82 Indiana lead.

Catchings was sent to the free-throw line and secured her team's win with two free throws.

"Coming into this game, we knew they were not going to be playing on their heels. We knew they were going to attack and throw that first punch," Chicago's Elena Delle Donne said. "They have veteran players that have been here before. They have Catch (Catchings) who is like another coach on the floor. So we expected a good game out of them."

Four other Fever players also finished with double digits in the scoring column. Shavonte Zellous had an enormous night for Indiana with 16 points off the bench. Briann January added 14; Lynetta Kizer added 12, and Shenise Johnson rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11.

Kizer was questionable for Saturday's game with a knee injury after missing game one.

The WNBA's best three-point shooting team struggled from behind the arc, finishing just 1-for-16. So, the Fever had to find other ways to score, showing their aggressive side as they slashed to the basket and created fouls.

They finished 80 percent from the free-throw line on 16-for-20. The Sky went 12-for-13. However, that aggression translated to the boards as Indiana outrebounded the Sky 41-32.

"We were able to lock in a little bit more defensively," Fever head coach Stephanie White said. "I think our players did a good job of changing defenses and changing schemes and being able to execute those schemes. And we were aggressive to the rim, we didn't settle. And when you combine those two things and again it's about giving yourself a chance to win. And we were able to make some plays down the stretch that gave ourselves a chance."

Allie Quigley led Chicago with 14 points. Elena Delle Donne was held to 11 points on 3-for-9 from the field. Erika de Souza finished with 11 points, and Cappie Pondexter added 10.

"In the playoffs you're not going to have success giving up 89 points. Offensively we scored 82, and I just finished counting eight missed layups," Sky head coach Pokey Chatman.

Chatman said the Sky needs to improve upon defending without fouling, which comes from help defense, blocking out and rebounding.

"You know they doubled us on points in the paint," Chatman said. "So all of those grit areas we need to come up more close and exploit them to win the game."