They started from the bottom and they are here. The Indiana Fever that is. The fourth- seeded Fever defeated the top seed Chicago Sky 85-72; in game one of the East semifinals to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. The WNBA defending champion Fever came into the series as the only team in the playoffs with a record under .500. They did not play like it moreover the experience was evident.The Fever were led by Shavonte Zellous who scored 20 points. Briann January and Karima Christmas had 16 points each, Erlana Larkins added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Tamika Catchings who received the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award along with the Sky’s Swin Cash scored 11 points.
The Fever were in the driver’s seat most of the night. The Fever led 50-37 at halftime. The Sky got no closer than 12 the rest of the way against a defense that allowed a league-low 70.5 points per game. “We shared the ball very well. When we penetrate the ball we are very hard to beat,” Zellous stated. The Fever had the league’s lowest shooting percentage at 39.3, but made 51 percent of their shots. In the first half, Indiana shot 56.7 percent from the floor.
Chicago made its first playoff appearance in franchise history. In their eighth season, the Sky had a team-record 24 wins and led the East by seven games. However, they lost to Indiana for the fourth time in five meetings this season.
The Sky collected accolades before the game. Elena Delle Donne became the first No. 2 overall pick to win Rookie of the Year in league history. She scored 20 points to lead Chicago. Sylvia Fowles, selected as the Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, added 16 points and 10 rebounds. It all did not add up to the Sky’s first playoff win. “We were a step slow. From penetrations to rebounds, it comes down to being smart and paying attention to who you are guarding,” Fowles stated. Delle Donne only contributed four points in the second half.
The Fever are one win away from returning to the Eastern Conference Finals. They are trying to become the third team in WNBA history to return to the finals as a fourth seed. Only two No. 4 seeds have ever reached the WNBA Finals, but neither Atlanta in 2010 nor Charlotte in 2001 won the title.