Thursday night when the ball is tipped off in game-one of the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals, it will be a different game. A different atmosphere. A different animal.
At least that is how it is perceived as far as Indiana Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings is concerned. Catchings would like to believe the 0-4 regular season record to the Atlanta Dream is something the team can just brush off before heading into the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night.
"This is a whole another season," said Catchings who averaged 21.3 points per game against Atlanta. "Whatever happened in the past, stays in the past. We have a chance to sort of redeem ourselves. Have a chance to go 0-4 to 2-4, and I think for us, it will be a big challenge."
The losses, which are recorded below, spell a story of a squad having another team's number.
July 19th: 90-78 at Atlanta.
August 27th: 86-80 at Indiana.
August 30th: 92-90 at Atlanta.
September 11th: 93-88 at Indiana.
"I'm sure they have the mental edge going in," said Fever center Tammy Sutton-Brown. "But we are focused, we are together, we've regrouped. We are in a good place right now."
The good news for the Fever is the fact that all streaks do eventually come to an end, and during that final home-loss, both Tamika Catchings and Erin Phillips were out of the line-up. And despite the fact Atlanta defeated Connecticut in a straight two games, All-Star Angel McCoughtry has played well-below her season average scoring-wise throughout the postseason (just 14 points per game compared to 21).
Though Fever Head Coach Lynn Dunn knows she can't expect McCoughtry's slump to continue much longer.
"Let me tell you she didn't shoot well but she made some nice plays for them down the stretch," said Dunn. "She got to the free-throw line, and she doesn't have to score to do things for them. She gets steals and she gets rebounds. So, maybe if they don't think she's that important then just don't dress her out."
One idea the Fever have on their side is home-court advantage. Having finished with the number-one seed in the conference, Indiana collected the second-best home-record in the East with a 13-4 standing. On the flip side however, Atlanta has the best away-record at 9-8.
"You have seen our record at home-court," said Brown, who has averaged 11.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg in 44 career playoff games. "We work all season to get that home-court advantage, and right now we believe it is definitely working in our favor."
But a Thursday night loss to the Fever would pin-point the squad, who have continuously talked about how their championship window is closing soon, between a hard place and a rock. Which is why going down 1-0 on Thursday night in a best of three series is not an option to All-Star forward Katie Douglas.
"Game one is pivotal," said Douglas. "It is pivotal in a lot of senses, but that's why we fought all season long for home-court. Game one really sets the tone for the rest of the series, and in a three game series, game one is a win that you must win. We need to defend our home-court."
Game one of the Eastern Conference Finals kicks off Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
Fever look to put past against Atlanta behind them
Catchings and the Fever would like to believe the 0-4 regular season record to the Atlanta Dream is something the team can just brush off before heading into the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night.
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