Indianapolis, IN -- Tamika Catchings turns 37 in two days, and tonight she got an early birthday present from Briann January, Marissa Coleman and the rest of the Indiana: a 92-82 victory over the number one team in the league.
In the Fever's last home game before the Olympic Break, they held the lead the entire game, but the Sparks breathed down Indiana's neck all 40 minutes.
With 6:10 minutes left in the game Los Angeles was creeping up on the Fever and only trailed 73-65. January made a quick pass to Coleman, who drained a three stretching Indiana's lead. Los Angeles was quick to combat. After a timeout, Kristi Toliver nailed a three keeping the Sparks in the game.
Coleman and January responded with a little déjà vu, but this time, the roles were reversed. Coleman with the assist and January with the perfect three-pointer. The Fever led 79-68.
"We were just rolling together," January said. "My teammates did a great job of being in the right position when I was feeding them the ball. And finding me when I was open."
Bankers Life Fieldhouse exploded with energy and Indiana was rejuvenated.
After those timely shots, the Fever dominated and sealed the win.
Catchings led Indiana with a game-high 23 points to lead five players in double digits for the Fever. She was 8-of-13 from the field and 3-of-4 from the three-point line. Lynetta Kizer had 14 points extending the longest stretch of her WNBA career with more than 10 points. January had 12 points and led the team with 9 assists.
"Offensively we moved the ball," Catchings said. "We kick it around; nobody is worried about hitting a shot, just getting the best shot that we can get on the court."
At the beginning of the game Indiana played with a vengeance and led the entire quarter. They played aggressive defense, attacking the rim and forcing turnovers. The Fever had 12 steals, forced 19 turnovers and grabbed 19 total boards.
"Anytime you force a great offensive team into [almost] 19 turnovers it showed what we can do defensively," Indiana coach Stephanie White said.
Near the end of first quarter, the Indiana led by 10 points. Los Angeles fought back to close the gap 22-19 at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Catchings' shot was impeccable. Her dominance started with a step back jumper about two minutes into the second quarter that had every Fever fan on their feet.
After that bucket, she racked up nine more points in the second quarter.
With 3:14 left in the half the Sparks held onto the ball against Indiana's aggressive defense. Right before the shot clock hit zero, Parker got away from her defender and nailed a three to close their deficit to three points 40-37. That was the closest Los Angeles got to gaining the lead.
"They beat us off the dribble, they turned us over," Los Angeles coach Brian Angler said. "...And when they do that we can't get our defense set off the penetration."
The Sparks fought back. They started off the third quarter with six unanswered points. Layups by Essence Carson and Parker, and a bank shot by Kristi Toliver, rejuvenated Los Angeles. With 4:30 left in the third each side scored eight points.
Jantel Lavender fought for a layup and cut the Sparks' deficit to 59-56. The Fever snapped back into their dominant defensive and fast-paced play.
In the last two minutes of the third quarter, Indiana made nine quick points - three from Shenise Johnson's free throws - and led 67-60 at the end of the third.
"We were in attack mode," White said. "When we attack and get defenses to shift we get wide-open looks, and we knock them down."
The clutch three's from January and Coleman amplified Indiana's energy, but the shots were only a small component of the fourth quarter run.
Los Angeles closed the gap to six points, 69-63, with 7:45 left in the last quarter; but Indiana took off on a 17-7 run to push for the largest margin of the night. The Fever collectively scored 25 points in the fourth and five steals. Nine of those points came from free throws.
Nneka Ogwumike recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds. She also led the Sparks with seven assists.
On Friday Los Angeles plays the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center.
Indiana faces the New York Liberty on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, and Catchings doesn't want the birthday celebrations to end here.
"We have one more game on my birthday, so that would be a great birthday present," Catchings said. "Let my teammates know that."