2015 WNBA Finals Game 1: Indiana Fever tame the Minnesota Lynx, 75-69
Led by guard Briann January, the Indiana Fever defeated the Minnesota Lynx 75-69 in game one of the WNBA Finals Sunday afternoon at the Target Center in front of 11,023 spectators. The Fever overcame a rowdy arena full of Lynx fans and withstood every rally the Lynx mounted late in the game. Minnesota took its only lead of the second half at 62-61 with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter.
The two teams were tied at 10 after the first quarter. The 20 combined points in the quarter was the fewest in WNBA Finals history. There were 12 lead changes in the first half and six ties.
While January fouled out with about a minute to go, she finished with a season-high 19 points along with four rebounds and six assists. Her exit included a technical foul after she complained about a call that penalized her for contact with Lynx forward Maya Moore.
“I’m just really proud of our team,” said Fever head coach Stephanie White. “I think all season long our greatest strength has been our depth. It’s been our perseverance. It’s been about our ability to handle adversity. It’s been about our ability to take care of our teammates. Tonight was no exception to that.
Minnesota made their runs, and we knew they were going to make their runs, but our team collectively just pulled together and found strength in numbers and found strength in one another to be able to get a win on the road. I’m just really, really proud of them.”
Four other Fever players finished in double figures include Marissa Coleman with 16 points and Tamika Catchings’ contribution of 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Shenise Johnson had 10 points and five rebounds. Shavonte Zellous also contributed 10 points.
Only two Minnesota players finished with double figures. Maya Moore paced her team with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Center Sylvia Fowles earned a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Fever’s tenacious defense limited Lynx guard Seimone Augustus to nine points and fellow starter, forward Rebekkah Brunson, to a paltry one point and three rebounds.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve expected the Fever were prepared to take game one.
“Not surprising that Indiana came in here ready to hoop and ready to steal a game,” said Reeve. “They’re just as good of a road team as we are, so we understand what their mindset is. So no surprises for us.
Probably the only surprising thing for me is how we didn’t handle some of their active hands, deflections that they got at key times, second chance points. We didn’t give up a lot of O boards, but when we did, we gave up three balls. I bet Coleman, every one of her threes were probably off of offensive rebounds. It wasn’t action they were getting for her. And then when we got to the free throw line, they fouled 22 times. We get to the foul line and miss our free throws. So we missed eight free throws. So just little things like that, turnovers, free throws, fouls we wanted to win. We didn’t get that done.”
It was only Minnesota’s third home playoff loss in franchise history (20 home postseason contests total) and snapped a 10-game home postseason winning streak for Minnesota. The team’s last defeat prior to the game was a 76-70 setback to Indiana in Game 1 of the 2012 WNBA Finals.
The best-of-five-series resumes Tuesday in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.
Points in the Paint: Fever 24, Lynx 34
Second Chance Points: Fever 22, Lynx 12
Fastbreak Points: Fever 2, Lynx 5
Biggest Lead: Fever 8, Lynx 5
Lead Changes: 14
Times Tied: 6
- The 20 combined points in the 1st quarter was the fewest in WNBA Finals history (previous was 23 Chi (8) at Phx (15), Sept. 7, 2014). It also was the second fewest in playoff history (behind the 19 of Indiana  at Connecticut , Aug. 23, 2007).
- The 10 points scored each by Minnesota and Indiana represent the second-lowest total by a single team in the first quarter in WNBA Finals history (current record is 8 by Chicago at Phx, Sept. 7, 2014)
- Maya Moore’s 27 points marked the fourth time she has scored 20 or more points in a WNBA Finals game (11 games played) and the 17th overall in the WNBA postseason.
- Briann January’s 19 points marked her highest total in the 2015 WNBA playoffs. Her career playoff high is 24.
- Tamika Catchings played in her 63rd career postseason game, one shy of the WNBA record held by Taj McWilliams-Franklin (64).
- Tamika Catchings’ first bucket came on a driving layup with 2:35 left in the first half. She is the WNBA’s all-time postseason scoring leader. She finished with 12, to push her all-time postseason points total to (1,079).
- Catchings had four steals in the game. It was the 10th time she has had four or more steals in the postseason.
- Fever tied the league’s all-time mark for playoff wins by a franchise (34). The record is shared with the Los Angeles Sparks.
- Since Indiana’s 2009 appearance in the WNBA Finals, the Fever is 6-4 in WNBA Finals play. The rest of the Eastern Conference is 0-12.
- The Fever is responsible for the Lynx’ past two playoff losses at Target Center – today (Oct. 4) and in Game 1 of 2012 Finals (Oct. 14, 2012, 67-70).
- Minnesota drops to 27-13 all-time in the WNBA Playoffs and 19-3 at Target Center which are both the best marks for any team in league postseason history.
Fever head coach Stephanie White
Q. Steph, how happy were you, especially with your perimeter offense and how multi-dimensional it was?
COACH WHITE: I was really happy. We talked before about Briann January’s pace. She’s just playing with a different poise, and she’s playing at a different pace, and she’s reading her options and understanding and knowing when to take her shot, when to attack the rim, when to find her teammates. It’s been her growth process. I thought she was, again, exceptional.
Shenise Johnson, this is the first time she’s ever been in an environment like this. She looked a little hesitant to me at first, but she found her groove and found her rhythm, and her ability to put the ball on the floor and score at the rim and break people down and find the open teammate.
Z’s been here before. She understands what it takes. She didn’t have a great game offensively because she struggled to put the ball in the hole, but she made the one that counted, made huge defensive plays as well.
Obviously, with Marissa and her ability to stretch the “D.” Marissa has never been on this stage either, and she hit a critical three-point shot for us and got a critical defensive play right at the end of the game.
I think our team, we just believe in one another. We trust one another, and we understand that, no matter what happens through the course of a game, if we come together, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win.
Q. Stephanie, how would you assess Coleman’s development in these playoffs? She had a big game today, as you mentioned, and Game 3 of the New York series, she was just as clutch.
COACH WHITE: I think it’s been great. Marissa’s growth on both ends of the floor has been tremendous. I think, if anything, her confidence is really sky high. She’s in a system and with a franchise that believes in her, that wants to utilize her in ways that make her successful, make our team successful, and she trusts that we’re trying to do the best that we can to put her in a position to be successful.
And the things that she brings us in terms of our spacing, her size and versatility, allowing us to move Tamika around as well as move her around, it’s just a perfect fit.
Q. Stephanie, Moore and Fowles did their damage, but how key was it to shut down Augustus and Whalen and keep them as quiet as you did?
COACH WHITE: It was huge. One thing about this team, they have so many weapons. It was big for us. It was big for us to make sure that everything that Maya Moore got was difficult, and it was. She’s going to make difficult shots, and we have to live with that. Seimone hit an incredibly difficult pull?up jump shot in the fourth quarter towards the end of the game, and we can live with it as long as we’re making it difficult.
Then for us to be able to limit their second chance opportunities is extremely critical. We have to do a really good job of being locked in on the box outs and being locked in when we’re in rotation. You know you’re not going to, you can’t even hardly contain Maya Moore. She’s going to get what she gets. Sylvia is a beast when she plays like that. There’s not really anybody better when she puts her mind to it inside.
Fortunately, we were able to get away with keeping everybody else in single digits.
Q. Talk free throws, 100 percent from the line. When you get to the finals, every point counts. Has that been a huge area of contention for you guys? That’s a pretty great percentage across the team.
COACH WHITE: I’m not a big believer in making a huge deal to our team about free throws made and missed because it’s so mental. As a player, the last thing I want to think about is how many free throws I missed because then it just makes me tighten up.
I emphasized to our players how important it is to get to the line, and when we get to the line, let’s take advantage of it. Those are missed opportunities. But I don’t put it in their head one way or another about the importance of making it every time we get there.
Q. Stephanie, for much of the season, you were concerned about trying to get the fever to play new style, new tempo. It seems like, in these last few playoff games, the defense has just improved so significantly. What do you attribute that to?
COACH WHITE: Well, I think the culture of our team, the culture of our franchise. Defense has always been a priority. Gary Kloppenburg is the best in the business when it comes to defensive strategy, understanding how to take away opponents’ strengths and make their lives difficult. Really, getting back to our defensive energy all year long has been the difference in our wins and losses.
At this time of the year, you’ve got to be able to grind it out on the half?court because nobody is going to allow you to play to your strength. If our strength is in transition, every team is going to take it away. That’s what being in the playoffs is about. That’s what this time of year is about.
While we’re not able to get exactly what we want offensively, we still understand, at the end of the day, offense doesn’t matter if you don’t find a way to get stops, if you don’t find a way to get boards. Our team takes it to heart. It’s a core value of our franchise, and it always be a core value of our franchise.
Fever players Tamika Catchings and Briann January
Q. Briann, is this the kind of game that you expected? How much of the resilience that this team showed every time the Lynx came at you today is really indicative of what you’ve been about all year?
BRIANN JANUARY: Most definitely. Throughout the course of the season, our team has continued to grow. We have a great core that has been here since 2012, and I think everybody else on the team has just kind of followed our lead and is ready to come in and play quality minutes and step up in the big moments.
You had Shenise come in today and do great things. And then you had Marissa with a huge three. Our bench is ready. When their time is called, they’re going to be ready. I have no doubt about it.
Yeah, tonight was tough. We knew Minnesota would come at us with everything they had, and they continued to punch. I’m so proud of my team in staying together and staying united and weathering those storms.
Q. Catch, you’re known for your defense and everything, but out front, Bri really set the tone. How much of that did you see in her pesky defense really set the tone for you guys tonight?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Yeah, big time. We talked about it over and over again, just as a team what we need to bring, what every individual player needs to bring. I challenged Bri to lead this team, lead us on the defensive end and to lead us on the offensive end. Just being the point guard, everybody is always focused in on her. When she plays the way she knows how to play defensively, she gets underneath people’s skin so bad.
It’s fun to watch as a teammate, because she’s my teammate, of course, but even offensively down the stretch, this is the best I’ve seen her play and being able to finish out games, I think, ever. The confidence she played with tonight, we need her to play with that for the rest of the series.
Q. A one-point lead, the crowd is going crazy. You’re in a time?out. What’s the talk right there? What’s the mindset right there?
BRIANN JANUARY: Slow down, focus, breathe, now let’s think about what we need to do and how we need to execute it. That’s exactly what we did in our huddle. We stopped. We heard the fans going. Everything was loud. We knew they were going on a run, but we really, like I said before, came together and stayed united in those moments and focused on the small things that we needed to do to pull out this game still, and that’s executing on offense and getting huge stops and rebounding to finish our “D.” I think we did that great down the stretch.
Q. This is the Lynx’s first home playoff loss since 2012 when you guys came in here. In your locker room, does it have the same type of feel that it did just a few years ago?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I’ll be honest. I haven’t really thought about 2012. We have the same core group, but we have so many new players, and we have a different system, a different coach, a lot of different things.
One thing we talked about every single series leading up to this one is, hey, just take care of business. We talked about being united. As a united front, when one player is not doing well, everybody else steps up. When two players aren’t doing well, everybody else steps up. Our bench is always ready, people on the court.
Even if you’re not scoring, you can do other things. You can rebound and box out. Brunson was a big test for me tonight and getting to the boards. That takes a lot of energy out of me.
Everybody has a job on this team. So the feeling in the locker room was really more individually what do I need to do to help put our team in a position to win this game?
Q. Tamika, I believe you had just two points in the first half, and you were speaking of stepping up. How did you and folks like Johnson and Zellous step up to help Coleman and January in the second half?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: The confidence. I believe that, no matter whether I’m scoring or not, I can make a difference in the game. My teammates rely on me offensively and defensively. Whether I score zero points, whether I score two, whether I score 15, 20, whatever the case may be, one thing that will never go away is my heart, will never go away is the passion that I play with.
Yes, in the second half, we were able to come out and able to score more points and put ourselves in a position as a team, but the great thing is we talk about a team, and we talk about the little things that everybody does that makes a big difference. You look at that stat sheet, and it’s not always about the scores and how many points people scored, it’s about the little things that I talk about this over and over again, but the little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet.
Q. Knowing now that the Lynx are going to come out with a chip on their shoulder in Game 2, how do you guys plan to come out and continue to execute?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS: We’ve got to have a chip too. We can’t look at this, yeah, we won the series. Steph said you can celebrate until midnight, and then we get ready for the next game. That has to be the mentality of this team. One game’s over. Forget about it. Forget about this game. We move on to the next game, and we focus on one game at a time.
Next game, they are going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. They know the things they need to do better. We know the things we need to do better. It’s huge we don’t think about us being up. This game we focus on the little things we need to do better so we can put ourselves in a position to win again.
Q. Sylvia and Maya got their points, but the Lynx have been about balance all year long. How big was it for you to limit Whalen and Augustus? How were you able to be so successful in that?
BRIANN JANUARY: It was huge. Like you said, they have a very well?balanced team, and they have scoring threats all over the place. We’ve faced this problem throughout the playoffs. We know we can’t let all of them go off. We’re going to make adjustments in our defense, and we’re going to have different schemes, but we have to individually take pride in our defense and lock people down. We know we’re going to be giving up things here and there.
I think our team did a great job of just staying together, having each other’s backs, and rotating and limiting the people that we needed to limit and contesting those shots. We know Maya is going to hit hard shots. That’s just going to happen every game. She’s going to make some unbelievable plays, but we have to stay disciplined to our defense, and I think we did a great job of that today.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve
Q. Cheryl, this is not an entirely familiar position for your team. You guys have won ten in a row here in the playoffs. How do you expect them to respond?
COACH REEVE: Well, we have a really smart group. We just played 40 minutes of a 200-minute series. So we have 160 minutes, and by my count, that’s a lot of minutes left. We’re good enough to win on the road. We’re not worried about…all I’m worried about is Tuesday night, and we’ve got to play great, and I suspect that we’ll come out, and we’ll do some of the things we didn’t do tonight.
Q. Can you discuss the performance of Sylvia Fowles tonight.
COACH REEVE: Yeah, I thought she was pretty amped up. Didn’t have great hands early, but she’s just, she’s really difficult to contain around the basket.
Early we had some really bad play calling, had her too far away from the basket, got five turnovers. Once we got her inside and playing more there, she was way more effective. We learned a lot tonight. We’ll definitely clean up some things.
Q. Coach, talk about the Fever’s offense tonight. You gave them an inch, and they shot up every time on the perimeter. How do you guys plan to adjust for that for Game 2?
COACH REEVE: They shot 36 percent, timely threes. The action three run is difficult to guard, which is why they’re in the WNBA Finals. They do what they do really well. It’s not like they have 100 things in their playbook. It’s a very simple but very effective action that they run that we had a hard time handling.
Three balls, again, were off of offensive rebounds. They made five, I think, if my eyes are right, five threes. I’m guessing at least three were off the O boards. So we forced the team into an air ball off of a three-point shot, and we can’t get possession. Ball goes out of bounds, and we don’t defend an inbounds play. We give up a layup. You can’t win a championship and give up a layup on a baseline out of bounds play, on a very simple baseline out of bounds play.
We didn’t play well enough to win, to be honest with you. We’ve got to play way better to have a shot at the Championship, and we just didn’t do that tonight.
Q. Can you talk about the perimeter matchup. Their perimeter players hurt you guys with some scoring. Do you need more offense from your perimeter?
COACH REEVE: That would be great. Both Lindsay and Seimone have to help us more offensively. They didn’t get the job done, either one of them, and we need more from them. Seimone’s a shot maker. This is the WNBA Finals. One of the best shot makers in the history of the game gets an opportunity, she’s got to make shots. She knows that.
Lindsay hasn’t found a way to help this team offensively in a long time. She’s got to get back to letting the game come to her. When she’s open, shoot it. When she gets drives, drive with a vengeance in there. And then defensively, it’s a challenge that we would have.
I wouldn’t say it was Lindsay and Seimone. I thought that some of our pick?and?roll defense left a lot to be desired. We’ll watch the video and clean some stuff up.
Q. Cheryl, did you like the shots that Seimone and Lindsay to a very small extent were getting? Or did you think they were really keying on those guys?
COACH REEVE: I don’t know how many shots Whalen took. Three. She took three shots. I think Lindsey’s mindset was to get the ball moving. She had four assists in the first half. We didn’t get a chance to get her wheels rolling. In the second half, we did do a little more pick?and?roll, had her out of the game. I think we can get Whalen some shots in some of our actions.
Seimone, you guys have been around. You’ve watched a number of games. I think the shots she got were Seimone?esque shots. It’s one of those things. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they don’t.
Q. Anything defensively you didn’t expect? It seemed like there were times in the second half, in particular, when it got very difficult to get the shot you wanted.
COACH REEVE: No. I think our execution was miserable. There wasn’t a thing that Indiana did that we didn’t talk about, that we weren’t aware of. I just thought it was one of those games. Like I said, you force a team into a bad shot, air ball, don’t get possessions,those are, Icould think of at least five possessions where goofy stuff like that happened. We shot 42 percent. They shot 36 percent. We shot 23 free throws. They shot 16. How do you lose that game?
And we just, like I said, we just didn’t do little things at key times, and they did. This is Indiana. This is what they do.
Q. You’ve seen the struggle executing after time outs. How do you feel you can improve in that area?
COACH REEVE: I have to go back and look at that. I didn’t necessarily know?? there were a couple times I thought we did. I thought we were 50?50, our execution. I don’t know if struggling is the right word. I don’t know that expectation is every time we’ve got to come out and score. I’m guessing at least 50 percent of the time, we either got a shot off or scored.
Q. You don’t see the fever and Briann January all the time, but from what you’ve seen, what have you seen her growth over the years?
COACH REEVE: She’s been the same. Obviously, the older you get, the more experience you have under your belt. I thought she played great tonight. Again, the action they put her in, ?Steph is really?? and that’s a key focal point of what they do at the point of the offense.
I see that the older you get, there’s not many surprises in the way that you’re being guarded. So what Briann does a great job of is reading what’s open. If the big over helps, then she pocket passes to the post. If the big is too far back, she shoots a pull?up jumper. I think she’s really efficient in the midrange game, the pull?up jumpers. Obviously, a really good three baller as well.
She’s the key to that team. She’s the key to that team. I know everybody is talking about Catchings, and that’s true, but when you’ve got a point guard that’s getting things done at that level?? she scored 19 and had us twisted?? that says a lot about her. Thank you.
Lynx players Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore
Q. Maya, was this kind of the Game 1 series opener you expected in terms of toughness and defense? What do you think kind of proved to be the deciding factor in the end?
MAYA MOORE: Just little things that we let slip away. Indiana is going to be very persistent at trying to get inside, being aggressive on their defensive side. Uncharacteristic amount of missed free throws on our end, second chance points, something we’ve been pretty focused and locked in on, that we’re definitely going to have to clean up next game if we want to beat a really good team hungry for a win.
Q. This is for both of you. Let’s talk about the last?minute inbound play at the very end. What happened there?
MAYA MOORE: The last?minute inbound play—
Q. Eight seconds left towards ??
MAYA MOORE: Oh, that inbound? Yeah, just was changing my cut and didn’t work out. They’re a team that gets their hands in a lot of passing lanes, and they try to really be aggressive towards the ball. So those are things all in our control that we can be cleaner and tighter on, all of us.
Q. Indiana forced 14 turnovers against you guys, 11 between the two of you. How stingy were the Fever against you today?
MAYA MOORE: That’s who they are. It’s nothing new. They’re very aggressive. They get their hands in the passing lanes. They try to cause chaos. That’s their bread and butter. It’s what they’re known for. It’s something that we know mentally going into a series. And now that we’ve got a game under our belt, hopefully, we’ll be better having experienced it so fresh.
Q. You came out at halftime, and you had the first two buckets. Are there times that Cheryl is just adamant, like we’re getting a touch and you go attack, or how are you ingratiating yourself in the game plan?
SYLVIA FOWLES: Just coming out and doing what I’m capable of and locking in and doing my best. My teammates did a really good job at keeping me focused and keeping me grounded. That’s why I came out the way I did in the second half.
Q. Not a lot of production for Lindsay, Seimone, and Rebekkah. Is that something you guys would expect to change as the series moves forward?
MAYA MOORE: Whatever the situation calls for, we want to step up. Not everything that’s contributed to our team is on a stat sheet. That’s something that we know, and we always try to make sure that whatever it is is bringing energy, being an emotional leader, communicating, doing all those little things that will turn into stats that you can see. So whenever it’s someone’s turn to step up and make a play, that’s all we care about.
But I know those three players are definitely going to be fired up even more so next game to be even better, just like we are.
Q. How does a game like this?? this is to either of you. How does a game like this increase your focus for the rest of the series?
SYLVIA FOWLES: I think we were focused going into this game, more so just taking the next 40 minutes and run with it. We can’t rewind this game back. We can just go back and look at the things we didn’t do so well and push forward for the next game on Tuesday.