Will Indiana’s success against Chicago continue in the playoffs?
by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz
The Chicago Sky have had the first seed in the Eastern Conference locked up for weeks. The only thing to be determined was their first round playoff opponent.
With the Atlanta Dream firmly planted in the second slot, the Indiana Fever went into the last day of the season tied for third place in the conference. Indiana did battle with the Connecticut Sun with the third seed at stake and chose to rest three of their five starters. Tamika Catchings, Shavonte Zellous and Briann January were all spectators as the Fever lost 82-80 to the Connecticut Sun, the worst team in the WNBA.
The Fever laid down in a game where their playoff standing mattered, but why? The perception is that Indiana felt like they have a better chance of beating Chicago than Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs.
The defending champs are the only team to win a season series against Chicago this year. Indiana was 3-1 against the Sky in 2013, handing Chicago two of their three home losses. Chicago’s sole victory against Indiana came on June 22 with Tamika Catchings out nursing a back injury.
In Indiana’s three wins over Chicago the Fever won by an average of 10.6 points. The Fever held Chicago to 36.5 percent field-goal percentage in those games. Chicago shot 42 percent from the floor for the season.
Rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne missed the second meeting between the two teams due to a concussion. In the three games she played against Indiana, Delle Donne shot 12-31 from the floor for an average of 13 points a game on 38 percent shooting. The likely choice for Rookie of the Year shot 42 percent for the season and averaged 18.1 points per game.
Indiana’s physical style seems to bother Chicago. Outside of Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, Chicago’s core players play a finesse game, which plays into the hands of the scrappy Fever.
“Indiana’s always aggressive,” Sky center Sylvia Fowles told SLAM. “They come out and pretty much just bully you. With that said, I think every game we’ve played against them we have gotten better. We just have to be on our best game.”
While Chicago has a lot in terms of size with Fowles and Delle Donne on the frontline, Indiana has the edge in toughness and experience. Chicago has never been to the playoffs in their franchise’s history. Only three players on their roster have ever played in the postseason. In the 52 combined playoff games played by Shay Murphy, Allie Quigley and Swin Cash, 47 of those games are under Cash’s belt.
The Fever chose to play Chicago in the playoffs for a reason. This is a classic example old vs new, big brother vs little brother, teacher vs student. Has Indiana underestimated the Sky’s abilities? No. But is Chicago an easier out in the first round than the Dream? The Fever seem to believe so.