The Indiana Fever may have more on their minds than simply revenge in their WNBA Finals rematch with the Minnesota Lynx.
In their first visit to Target Center since October's Game 5 loss, the Fever also take the court Friday night for the first time since coach Stephanie White announced she'll be leaving the team at the conclusion of the season.
An already intriguing clash of league heavyweights added another interesting subplot when White accepted an offer to become coach at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The 38-year-old will remain with the Fever through the 2016 season.
"It has always been a goal of mine to get back into college coaching at some point in my career," said White, who spent four years as a Division I assistant following the end of her playing career in 2003. "But it had to be the perfect opportunity in order for me to consider leaving this job that I love very much."
In White's initial season replacing the retired Lin Dunn, the Fever defeated higher-seeded Chicago and New York to reach the Finals before losing 69-52 to the Lynx in the decisive Game 5.
Indiana (2-1) opened its follow-up season with a loss to Dallas but bounced back to conclude its homestand with wins over Phoenix and Atlanta. Seven players scored in double figures in both games and the Fever scored 25 points off 22 turnovers in last Friday's 94-85 victory over the Dream.
The Fever now attempt to put aside any potential distraction for an already challenging assignment against the powerful Lynx, who've begun their title defense with four straight impressive wins and capped a three-game trip with Wednesday's 85-78 victory over slumping Phoenix.
After allowing the Mercury to score 14 straight to forge a 66-all tie with under five minutes left, Minnesota closed the game on an 8-1 run and forced Phoenix to miss four of its final five shots.
"We just had to lock in and not get frustrated with our mistakes and execute the next play that we needed," forward Maya Moore said. "We've been playing together for a while, so we know what it takes to finish through games and our defense came through for us."
Moore delivered as well by recording a season-high 34 points. She's averaging a league-leading 25 per game along with 55.6 percent shooting.
Indiana held Moore to five points in last year's finale but didn't have an answer for Sylvia Fowles, with the veteran center totaling 20 points and 11 points en route to earning Finals MVP honors.
The Fever won one of three games in Minnesota during the Finals but have lost nine straight to the Lynx in regular-season play.