Know Your Opponents: Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut
By Rebecca Rider
The Fever head into this week with their playoff hopes looking up. Not only have they created separation between themselves and New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the second seed and homecourt advantage in the first round is now within reach. Here’s a closer look at each of Indiana’s opponents in this penultimate week of the regular season.
September 4th: at Atlanta (15-13, 10-8 East), 7:00PM (LiveAccess)
Last time out: The Dream broke a four-game losing streak with a comfortable 92-82 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sept. 2. Érika de Souza had a season-high 27 points, and Alex Bentley added a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
What’s at stake: The Dream are suddenly stumbling, and a team that was once fighting with Chicago for the best record in the Eastern Conference is suddenly back with the pack. Atlanta is 4-7 in their last 11 games. Indiana will have the opportunity to tie the season series at 2-2.
Who to watch: Angel McCoughtry’s shooting has fallen off a bit since the last time these two teams met, but she’s still a force to be reckoned with from anywhere on the court. Injuries to Armintie Herrington and Tiffany Hayes have forced her to take on even more of the load for her team.
Who to look out for: Érika de Souza is shooting over 56% from the field, averaging 12.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. When her teammates get her the ball, she’s unstoppable. It’s just that she has to get the ball…
Fun fact: Rookie Alex Bentley, who’s bounced between the bench and the starting lineup, is an Indianapolis native and alumna of Ben Davis High School.
September 6th: at Chicago (21-8, 15-4 East), 8:30 PM (LiveAccess)
Last time out: Sylvia Fowles had 18 points as Chicago used a 30-point third quarter to take over against the Atlanta Dream and win 85-68, on Aug. 31. Elena Delle Donne added 15 points and seven rebounds.
What’s at stake: Chicago has already clinched a playoff berth, the first in franchise history, and followed that up by locking up the top seed in the East. They’re tide with Los Angeles for the second-best record in the league, trailing Minnesota by just one game. Indiana is looking to solidify their playoff position- third-place Washington and second-place Atlanta are both in range.
Who to watch: Sylvia Fowles has dominated the glass with double-digit rebounds in four of her last six games, including a 20-21 game against Connecticut on Aug. 18. When Big Syl gets touches, it’s going to be a long night for opposing players.
Who to look out for: Point guard Courtney Vandersloot has developed well in her third season in the WNBA, though it helps that she has two strong offensive weapons to dish to in Fowles and Elena Delle Donne. She’s averaging 7.7 assists and 12.2 points per game over the last eight games.
Fun fact: Former Fever player Deanna Jackson was one of the Sky’s inaugural players.
September 7th: Connecticut (7-22, 5-12 East), 7:00 PM (LiveAccess) (FSI) (Buy Tickets)
Last time out: The Sun showed fight until the very end in their 76-68 loss to the Mercury on Aug. 31. Tina Charles had 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Sun, with 10 and 11 coming in the first half. They’ll also host Washington on Sept. 6 before heading to Indianapolis to face the Fever. Their only win since Aug. 6 came when Tan White beat the buzzer against Atlanta.
What’s at stake: The Sun have already clinched their worst record in franchise history and were knocked out of playoff contention after losing to Phoenix on Aug. 31. But Connecticut can still play kingmaker- after this trip to the Circle City, they have one more game against each of Atlanta, Washington, and Indiana. Both teams will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Who to watch: Tina Charles is putting up roughly the same raw numbers that she did during her MVP season last year, but on 40% shooting instead of 50%. She’s shown more of a tendency to float to the outside than to take it strong to the hole.
Who to look out for: With three of the Sun’s regular rotation guards out (Kelly Faris with an injured left foot, All-Star Allison Hightower with a strained right knee, and Kara Lawson with a bone bruise and family issues), much has been placed on the shoulders of combo guard Renee Montgomery. If she can get hot from the outside and can get her shots in the lane to fall, she can put the Sun back into a game – but she can go cold just as fast, and tends to not notice.
Fun fact: Sun guard Tan White was the Fever’s first round pick in 2005, second overall.