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Playoff Berth Hangs in the Balance as Indiana Tries to Recover

August 9, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS -- For the Indiana Fever, it was like trying to push a car from a deep mud hole. No traction. No progress.

“It's the first time I've thought this year that we played a game and it didn't matter how hard we tried, we couldn't go anywhere,” Fever head coach Lin Dunn said.

Indiana's team stayed stuck in that morass for most of the evening on Friday, paying for it with a 74-61 loss to the Washington Mystics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The defeat was Indiana's third straight -- and 10th in 15 home games this season -- and dropped the Fever (13-17) into a tie for fourth place with Chicago in the WNBA Eastern Conference.

Only four East clubs will make the playoffs. If Indiana wants to garner a 10th consecutive appearance in the postseason, something likely has to change over the final four regular-season games.

“We just have to flush this one,” said guard Shavonte Zellous, who led the Fever with 13 points. “We have to go to New York (Sunday afternoon) and steal a game up there.”

Three of Indiana's final four games are against New York. Dunn is hoping her team can shake what appeared to be both mental and physical fatigue and still push into the playoffs.

Tamika Catchings, the Fever's star forward, says Indiana has the right stuff to get it done.

“We do,” said Catchings, who had 11 points. “You see the positive moments. You see the highs, you see the lows. Unfortunately for us, we have to have more highs. We have to put together more minutes when we're playing that quality basketball.”

Catchings knows there is no time to waste.

“We've been conserving everybody to make it to the playoffs,” she said about the Fever's attempts to keep starters fresh, “and we might not be in the playoffs if we keep playing like this. That's just the reality check of it.”

Friday night's reality hit home in the second and third quarters. Shooting 29.4 percent in the second quarter while hitting no field goals over the final five minutes, Indiana trailed by 37-29 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Washington exploded, hitting 11-of-13 shots (84.6 percent). Center Kia Vaughn, who wound up with a game-high 22 points, had 12 in the quarter.

Nothing worked as the Fever attempted to stem the tide. By midway through the fourth quarter, Indiana trailed by 26 points.

“Put it on me,” said Dunn, who wondered if she practiced her club too hard following a tough two-point loss to the Minnesota Lynx, the reigning league champions, on Tuesday.

“For whatever reason,” Dunn said after the Mystics improved to 15-15, “we were mentally and physically tired, and they were sharp. That was not a pretty picture.”

The Fever's Erlana Larkins grabbed eight rebounds and set a franchise record for caroms in a season, reaching 280. That broke Catchings' mark of 276 established in 2002.

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