If there's one thing Tamika Catchings had going into game two of the playoff series, it was focus. The WNBA All-Star racked up some serious stats bringing the Indiana Fever a victory over the Chicago Sky Saturday night.
"I think tonight we just came out with a lot more focus," Catchings said. "Not to say we weren't focused in game one, but definitely down the stretch our focus it seemed like it magnified."
The focus for Catchings seemed to be everything—with 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, the six-foot-two forward was an unstoppable threat all night.
"We executed offensively and defensively," Catchings said. "Everybody zoned in. You could see it in their eyes."
The execution and intensity that Catchings is talking about would be difficult to find in the first five minutes of last night's game. When Chicago made a 14-8 run just minutes after tipoff, the Indiana offense wasn't looking so good. However, wait for the first official timeout to be called and you'll see the intense look Catchings is referring to in every Fever athlete that stepped into the game.
"I think it was a battle, just like what you expect playoff basketball to be like," Head Coach Stephanie White said. "We were able to lock in a little bit more defensively. I think one of the things that we have to continue to do with a team like Chicago is try to keep them off balance, because they're so good."
If playoff basketball is characterized by close games and exchanging leads, then that's exactly what took place in Indiana last night. The trick for the Fever was to grab the lead right before the clock ran out.
With six minutes to play, Chicago was leading 78-77. Catchings made two free throws and Marissa Coleman added a jumper to put the Fever up 85-80 with three minutes remaining.
Immediately after Coleman's jumper, Courtney Vandersloot hit a layup that put the Sky within three, but Catchings had a basket and then made two free throws with 24.9 seconds left to close the scoring.
"I think our players did a good job of changing defenses and changing schemes and being able to execute those schemes," White said. "And we were aggressive to the rim, we didn't settle."
Although Catchings' stats prove that she was the most aggressive to the rim on the night, she credits fellow teammate Shavonte Zellous, who scored seven points late in the first quarter to help Indiana break out of its early offensive funk.
Catchings also helped limit WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne to 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field. Delle Donne, who averaged a league-best 23.4 points during the season, has been held to a total of 25 points while shooting 8 for 24 from the field in this series.
The Fever win comes at a pivotal time in the playoff season-- Indiana lost all four regular season meetings with Chicago and the opener of this playoff series.
"The first game [in the series] we were so tense, like we wanted win the game so bad and everybody individually wanted to win it and down the stretch we just kind of fell apart a little bit," Catchings said.
With the victory, the Fever extended their season to a game three and will visit Chicago Monday night.
Despite all the effort to focus on winning, Catchings says she had more than just focus in the game. She had something else, too.
"We knew what this game meant, but at the same time it was like let's have fun tonight."
What will tonight bring? Who knows? But if it's up to the focused Catchings, it will be a lot of fun for the Fever.