Tamika Catchings defies odds at 36 for Indiana Fever
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) There aren't many WNBA playoff games left in Tamika Catchings' career. The 36-year-old forward for the Indiana Fever plans to retire after the 2016 season and a fourth Olympic Games.
Before that, she wants to add another league championship to the Fever's 2012 title. To do that, Indiana needs to win Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday against the New York Liberty. The top-seeded Liberty won Wednesday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Being down is nothing new to the third-seeded Fever. They trailed 1-0 in each of the first two rounds in 2012 and again in the first round this year before beating Chicago 2-1.
''Because we have the mental asset of having players that have been there, done that, going into the second game against Chicago, we were all on the same page,'' Catchings said.
This is the Fever's 11th straight playoff appearance, a league record. That run is largely because of the presence of the 14-year veteran, who is the daughter of former 11-year NBA veteran Harvey Catchings.
In the regular season, Catchings had career lows in scoring average (13.1) and shooting percentage (.382). Part of that can be attributed to fewer minutes (26.6) because of a nagging back injury and balance by the Fever, who had seven players average eight or more points.
While Catchings has been slowed by knee and ankle injuries during her career, she's peaked during these playoffs. She's averaging 19.8 points and shooting 49 percent in the current postseason and became the first in WNBA history to score 1,000 playoff points.
''There's no measurement, there's no statistic, for the competitive nature that she has, for the way that she wills herself to make a shot or get the rebound or get the defensive stop,'' said first-year Fever coach Stephanie White, a former teammate who is two years older than Catchings. ''She wears her heart on her sleeve when she plays, and she's a courageous player, she's an aggressive player, and she's a smart player.
''You can't measure all the intangibles that allow her to compete night in and night out.''
The Fever are in the East finals for a fifth consecutive year but ''laid an egg'' in Game 1, Catchings said. She was limited to nine points by the swarming Liberty defense.
The Fever are trying to reach the WNBA Finals for a third time in seven years. The Liberty, who missed the playoffs the past two year, haven't been to the finals since 2002.