If there was any doubt that Tamika Catchings could not carry the load for her Fever team against Bill Laimbeer, it was certainly erased on Sunday. With her team trailing by 18 points in the second quarter, the veteran guard did what she does best — take control of the game.
Of her 25 points in the game, 23 were scored in the final 22 minutes. That statistic alone shows her experience, excellence, and will to win.
Coach Stephanie White challenged her team to play as if they were in battle, fighting for something. This game could have been the team's final one of the 2015 season if they came away with a loss. Catchings wanted to start the second half over, as if it were a new game, and she meant that quite literally.
"At halftime, I took off my shoes like, ‘okay we're going to start all the way over.' If I could have taken off my uniform, I probably would have done that too. But I took off my shoes and just kind of like relaxed, slow down, thinking about the day and just everything and what I've given to the game and what my teammates needed from me," said Catchings.
The Fever team that took the court in the second half was one that fans had not seen in the first. They played inspired, as if fighting for something, with Catchings leading the charge.
"I'm just really proud of our team for our effort in the second half," said Coach White. "I thought for whatever reason we came out very flat. In the first half, we came out almost content looking. And it's not really acceptable. And we challenged them in the locker room at halftime to come out with a fire, with the competitive spirit that we've shown all season long and we did.
"And of course, you know led by Tamika (Catchings) and her warrior mentality. Really, she just challenged everybody to come with more intensity."
The 14-year veteran has experience that not many WNBA players will ever have. The 36-year old plans to play in the 2016 Olympics, bringing her Olympic games total up to four. As for now, her eye is on the immediate prize — the 2015 WNBA title. The team won it back in 2012, and are battling in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth straight year.
She comes in as a highly respected player — one that current WNBA stars look up to. Tina Charles noted the shift in the fourth quarter, sparked by Catchings, and how her leadership was able to get her team into a rhythm. "Me growing up, watching Tamika (Catchings), she's very resilient, willing the team to a win and to a victory.
"I knew she was going to turn it up to take over the game and then the rest of the guys, it was just going to be a snowball effect, and they were going to fill in where necessary. And that's exactly what they did."
Catchings struggled throughout the season, due to a nagging back injury throughout the year, but has peaked in the playoffs. She became the first player in WNBA history to reach the 1,000 playoff point mark.
Records are something that Catchings likes to break. She's played in a record 10 All-Star games, and hit the 1,000 career steals mark back in August, the first in the WNBA to do so. Probably the most notable statistic one can find is that Catchings recorded the first ever quintuple-double, with 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 blocks, and 10 steals back in 1997.
There is no question that Tamika Catchings is one of the best ever to play the game. She is undeniably one of, if not the best, player on the court at all times/ Yet, as her team heads into game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, she credits her team.
"Today was just an example of the fight and the grit and the character of this team...I'm really proud of my team. I'm really proud of my teammates. And just the grit that we all showed in coming out and just like hey if we're going to go out, we're going to go out with a bang. And here we are going to game three."