Catchings' double-double leads Fever past Atlanta
By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) Tamika Catchings is hardly slowing down in her 11th WNBA season.
If she keeps playing at an elite level, Catchings might win a second straight league MVP award, but she insists her goals are much higher.
"I want to win a championship," she said. "For me, every single game, every single practice is about trying to help this team get better and get closer to our final goal."
Catchings had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Katie Douglas added 16 points and the Indiana Fever beat the Atlanta Dream 78-62 on Sunday.
Catchings' double-double was her 73rd, fifth-most on the WNBA's career list, and helped Indiana (3-0) win its second straight over the Dream after losing the Eastern Conference finals to Atlanta last year.
Angel McCoughtry finished with 21 points and Lindsey Harding added 13 for Atlanta, which had a six-game home winning streak over the Fever snapped.
Catchings took charge of the game in the second quarter. She scored 17 points in the period, going 9 for 9 on free throws, banking in a 6-foot runner to force the game's first tie at 28-all and hitting a 3-pointer to make it 31-31.
Jessica Davenport, who scored 12 points as a reserve center, ended Indiana's 18-6 run late in the second to give the Fever their first lead at 33-32.
After McCoughtry's floater early in the second matched Atlanta's biggest lead at 11, the Dream (1-2) went over 6 minutes without scoring another field goal. They missed 14 of their next 18 shots before Harding's 9-foot runner cut the lead to 60-45 late in the third.
The Dream lost to Indiana for the second time in nine days.
"When we make great defensive stops, we're able to run," Catchings said. "I think both of these teams have the same kind of attack. We're both running teams and then we both thrive off turnovers, so we were able to convert and it really showed tonight."
Atlanta twice came within seven late in the fourth, but after McCoughtry hit a pair of free throws, Davenport's putback made it 69-62.
Indiana forced 23 turnovers, leading to 18 points. The Fever have forced their first three opponents into 66 miscues this season.
The Dream's 45 field-goal attempts marked a single-game franchise low. Their seven assists matched a single-game franchise low.
Not surprisingly, Atlanta's bench was outscored by Indiana's 27-2.
"We didn't move the ball well," Dream center Yelena Leuchanka said. "We didn't rotate well where we could have had some high-lows. We didn't recognize some things that were open out there. We didn't move as well on offense as we did the last game."
McCoughtry, who led the Dream to the WNBA finals the last two years, strained a muscle in her left leg late in the second quarter. She acknowledged that the injury slowed her down in the second half, but Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors thought Indiana's defense was tough on her, too.
"They send two and three players at her," Meadors said. "She has to find open people, but we just didn't have good spacing. Everyone was right around her. We have to do a better job at spacing."
Douglas was pleased with how well her team moved its feet on defense, beating screens and stepping in front of passing lanes to thwart Atlanta's attack.
"I think our identity is on the defensive end, doing some different looks than we did in the first game (last week at Indianapolis)," Douglas said. "If you give Atlanta the same looks, they will definitely expose you."
That wasn't the case on Sunday. Catchings had her teammates' attention when the Fever trailed by 11 early in the game.
"I know for me and speaking for the rest of us, looking at this season and knowing what we want to do, ultimately our goal is to win a championship," Catchings said. "I thought our energy was really low to start the game. I don't know if because it was an early game or whatever the case may be, but we can't afford to have starts like that."
Updated May 27, 2012