Indiana Fever took a 1-0 lead in the WNBA Finals following a 76-70 road win over last season’s champions Minnesota Lynx at the Target Center.
With leading scorer Katie Douglas sidelined with a sprained ankle, the Fever battled and despite a host of stars on the Minnesota roster, including three gold medallists from the recent London Olympics, Indiana outplayed and outhustled their opponents.
Fever had their own gold medallist as Tamika Catchings led the side with 20 points. Erlana Larkins had an impressive double-double of 16 points and 15 rebounds.
The intentions of the visitors were clear from the opening tip – they raced to a 14-7 lead – thanks to a triple from Catchings as they ran their sets to perfection, Minnesota were slow to get the hands up and the Fever were shooting the ball well, leading 25-20 after one.
The visitors extended their lead to 32-22 in the early stages of the second thanks to a lay-up in traffic from Larkins, but Minnesota hit back. The defending champions went on an 8-0 run led by the driving force of Simone Augustus, who led the Lynx with 23 points.
Lynx weathered the storm a little bit but still found themselves behind at half-time 43-40.
Poor defence from the hosts to start the third allowed Briann January two straight attempts from down-town, eventually draining the second shot to give Fever a 46-40 advantage but back Minnesota who found a higher gear to draw level at 50-50 with a bucket from Augustus and then the gold medal duo of Lindsay Whalen and Augustus combined to give Lynx a 54-50 lead with 4:25 of the third left.
Fever though quickly tied the game only for Augustus to take it back again as the back-and-forth battle excited the 14,000 inside the Target Center. Minnesota had a 58-56 lead going into the fourth.
With white pom-poms being waved in anticipation for the fourth, the pro-Lynx supporters were left stunned as Indiana took the chances they were left with and forced Minnesota into 12 straight misses in the fourth. A lay-up with 3:19 to go from Larkins gave the visitors a 72-62 lead and Minnesota couldn’t come back.
Game two stays in Minnesota on Wednesday.