September 30, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) Four years ago, Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever came into the WNBA Finals as a huge underdog to Minnesota.

Catchings and her squad put forth an incredible effort to pull off the upset, knocking off the Lynx in four games to win their only championship in franchise history.

Now the Lynx stand in the way again of the Fever, who, as Catchings put it, weren't even expected to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The series will begin Sunday in Minnesota.

''Nobody thought we'd win the first series,'' Catchings said. ''No one thought we'd win this round. No one thinks we'll win the finals. We're not done yet.''

Catchings, who announced she's retiring at the end of next season, has willed her team to victories. The Fever won the final two games in the opening round against Chicago. Then, against New York, the Fever swept the final two contests, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the second quarter in Game 2 to force Tuesday's contest, which they won 66-51.

''This is awesome,'' Catchings said. ''If you had asked me before the season if I'd be sitting right here, we're going to try, I don't know. To be sitting here means a lot for the organization, for my team.''

Almost everyone thought Minnesota would be playing for a championship. It was the preseason favorite to win a third championship in five seasons, and the Lynx nearly have Olympians at every position, headlined by Maya Moore.

Still, Catchings has found a way to will her team to victories. Indiana is 8-2 in elimination games the past four seasons, and Catchings is a main reason why. She's averaged 20.4 points in those contests. She had 14 points and a bunch of key defensive plays in the win over the Liberty on Tuesday night.

She'll have her hands full with the Lynx and Moore. The 2014 MVP came up with a huge defensive play at the end of Game 2's win over Phoenix, and then hit the game-winning free throw with 1.5 seconds left after a foul call that the league later said never should have been made. She finished with a playoff career-best 40 points.

''You just keep playing until the last horn,'' Moore said. ''I was just anticipating them passing the ball inside and just tried to get a deflection. That's what I've been trying to do all year, lead my team in deflections.''

Here are a few other story lines to look for in the WNBA Finals:

HEY ROOKIE: Indiana's Stephanie White became the first rookie head coach to lead her team to the finals. While she had a lot of experience as an assistant, she took over for Hall of Famer Lin Dunn this season.

''She's been a huge reason why we've been successful this season,'' Catchings said. ''She's been a player's coach, but also knows when to push people.''

Conversely, Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve will be coaching in her fourth WNBA Finals.

FOWLES FACTOR: Minnesota struggled to incorporate Sylvia Fowles into their system after acquiring the All-Star center at the end of July. But she finally has started asserting herself in the playoffs, dominating the final few minutes of Game 3 against Los Angeles in the opening round. She also was a big factor in slowing down Brittney Griner in the Western Conference finals.

HEALTH STATUS: Minnesota came into the playoffs with Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus nursing injuries. Neither has looked completely healthy, but the Lynx have gotten contributions from other players such as Anna Cruz and Devereaux Peters.

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