Moriah Felder | Staff Writer
The Indiana Fever overpowered the New York Liberty to win Game 3, 66-51, and took the Eastern conference crown on September 29 after being down 1-0 in the series. The Fever will travel to Minnesota to face the Lynx in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 3pm on ABC.
This series will be a rematch of the 2012 Finals when the Fever defeated the Lynx to win the franchise’s first championship.
Three years ago, the Lynx were looking to be the first team to win back to back championships since the LA Sparks, led by legend Lisa Leslie, in 2002. However, the Fever pulled off the upset, winning 3-1. Future Hall of Fame forward Tamika Catchings added to her list of accolades when she was named Finals MVP.
After losing Game 1 and being down by 15 at halftime of Game 2 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, it looked as if the Fever’s season was over but a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter propelled Indiana to a 70-64 win to force a decisive Game 3 in Madison Square Garden.
The Fever, still led by Catchings at age 36, controlled the game from the opening tip, building an 18 point lead in the third quarter.
The Liberty refused to quit and went on a 12-3 run to close the third and scored the first five points of the fourth quarter. However, the Fever responded by going on a 10-0 run of their own to solidify their victory.
Catchings, who announced that she will retire after next season, has been the center of the Indiana franchise for the last 15 seasons and the reason for the team’s postseason success.
The Fever is 8-2 in elimination games and Catchings averaged 21.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in nine of those games. The 10-time All-Star currently holds WNBA playoff records in points, rebounds, steals and double-doubles.
In the West, the Minnesota Lynx had a much easier road to the Finals. For the third consecutive time, the Lynx faced the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lynx got off to a slow start in Game 1 but forward Rebekkah Brunson stepped up by grabbing 12 defensive rebounds, setting a franchise playoff-record 19 rebounds overall and contributing 13 points. The Lynx topped the Mercury 67-60 to take the series, 2-0.
Two time WNBA MVP forward Maya Moore had a career high 40 points and a decisive defensive play to close out the series against Phoenix. With the score tied at 71 and three seconds on the clock, Moore stole a pass from the Mercury’s sixth woman guard Noelle Quinn.
Quinn was called for a controversial reach-in foul sending Moore to the foul line with 1.5 seconds on the clock.
Moore missed the first and made the second shot, bringing the score to 72-71 and sending the Lynx to the championship series for the fourth time in five years.
The WNBA released an official statement stating, “We have determined a foul should not have been called on Quinn for contact on Moore while Moore was attempting to advance the ball.”
Both teams are returning very similar rosters from their 2012 showdown including Briann January, Erlana Larkin, and Shavonte Zellous for Indiana and All-Stars Moore, Brunson, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus for Minnesota.
The Lynx have had a week to rest and prepare for another shot at the title, while the Fever have played two series that were extended to three games as the Fever fought back from a 1-0 hole in both.
The key for Minnesota in this Finals matchup will be limiting the offensive production of Indiana.
The Fever topped the league with a 36 percent three point conversion rate and averaged 77.7 points per game during the regular season, while the Lynx averaged 75.5.
Indiana guard and former UMD standout Marissa Coleman will be a player to watch. Coleman is averaging 11 points per game in these playoffs and has shot 5 of 7 from the beyond the arc.
Despite the Fever’s offensive production, getting past the Lynx defense will be a struggle. The Lynx were picked as the preseason favorite to win it all with their started studded roster than includes five Olympians.
They ranked third in the league in points allowed, averaging 71.7 per game and their opponents averaged to shoot only 31.3 percent of three-pointers.
Center Sylvia Fowles will be an essential part of the Lynx defense. Fowles was acquired July 27 from the Chicago Sky and made a quick impact.
In the conference finals, the 6-6 center averaged 10 points, 14 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. The combination of Fowles and Bruson in the paint may be just what Minnesota needs to beat the Fever.
The Fever will be in Minnesota on Sunday and then will play Game 2 on Oct. 6 and Game 3 Oct. 9 at 8PM on ESPN2.