INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With a chance to improve their seeding for the playoffs, the Indiana Fever jumped out to a big early and then had to hold off the Chicago Sky.
Tamika Catchings scored 25 points and Briann January added 14 to help the Fever beat the Sky 71-67 Saturday night, securing the No. 2 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
Indiana (16-17) shot 66.7 percent during the first quarter to take an 18-point lead before finishing the period up 32-16, marking its highest first-quarter scoring total this season.
“I am really proud of our team with the way we came out tonight,” Catchings said. “I thought we came out focused and ready to play. Our first half we have been doing really well the last couple games.”
The Sky then outscored Indiana 36-22 during the second and third quarters and cut the Fever’s lead to 69-67 with 36 seconds to play. Chicago shot 41.7 percent during the final three quarters, while holding the Fever to 29.8.
Catchings scored 10 points in the final period and made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession lead.
“In crunch time you know where we are going,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said. “You can expect Briann January and Tamika Catchings to have something to do with how we finish the game.”
Allie Quigley scored 17 points to lead Chicago (15-18), and Elena Delle Donne added 14 points and seven rebounds. The Sky remained a half-game behind Washington for third-place in the East and can get the No. 3 seed with a win against San Antonio on Sunday.
“I thought we had some hollow possessions,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “They didn’t do the dirty work. I mean we were minus 11 on the boards. The paint points were 34-20 and second chance points (18-7). Can’t beat anybody if you don’t put in work with those things.”
Sylvia Fowles, Chicago’s third leading scored was held to four points, nearly 10 below her average. All of her points came in the first quarter.
“I thought the key to the game … was the defense we did on Syliva Fowles,” Dunn said. “Anytime Sylvia is not scoring then we have a chance to win.
She averaged 18 points in the two games she has played against the Fever this season.
Dunn was honored with multiple recognitions during a pregame ceremony that including the raising of a banner in the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The newly elected Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer coached her last regular season home game.
“I think that kind of sparked us,” Catchings said of the pregame ceremony. “Knowing what the game meant for Lin, this is something that she will remember for the rest of her life. That is something (the team) talked about, `let’s win this for her’.”