Catchings leads Fever to Game 1 win
Tamika Catchings scored 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds, and the Indiana Fever defeated the Washington Mystics, 78-73, in Game 1 of a WNBA Eastern Conference semifinal.
Briann January netted 15 points and Shavonte Zellous added 10 points for Indiana, which outscored the Mystics at the free throw line, 29-15.
Both teams finished the season with identical 16-18 records and each won a pair of road games in the season series between the two clubs.
Ivory Latta tallied 22 points for Washington, while Emma Meesseman and Monique Currie registered 17 and 11 points, respectively.
Indiana won the third quarter by a 17-14 margin to trim its halftime deficit to 50-47 heading to the fourth.
Both teams were within a possession of each other for most of the fourth. With the Fever ahead by three, 64-61, after a pair of free throws from Catchings, Stefanie Dolson turned the ball over at the other end of the floor.
January converted a layup, then she assisted on another in the following possession as the hosts stretched the margin to 68-61 with 2:20 left in the fourth. Indiana led by nine when Latta was called for a technical foul, and the Fever held off a late Washington surge over the remaining minute-plus to secure the opening game of this three-game set.
Game 2 is set for Saturday in Washington.
Earlier, Erlana Larkins' layup capped a quick 7-0 burst in the opening two minutes for Indiana, then Marissa Coleman stretched the margin to 10, 14-4, at the midway point of the first after a successful jumper.
Washington cut the deficit to three later in the first, but the hosts scored the final six points of the quarter to take a 22-13 lead into the second.
The Mystics turned up the pressure on the defensive end in the second to grab a 36-30 lead at the break.
Kara Lawson made a pair of buckets as part of a 10-0 quarter-opening run that helped Washington to its first lead of the night. January answered at the other end for Indiana's first points of the frame with just under six minutes until half. The Mystics ended the second on a 9-2 run, limiting the Fever to just one basket over the final 4:07 to take a six-point halftime lead.