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Catchings and Fever win first WNBA title

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Catchings and Fever win first WNBA title

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings finally has the only title that was missing from her incredible basketball resume - a WNBA championship.

She scored 25 points to help the Indiana Fever win their first WNBA title with an 87-78 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday night.

Catchings, who was the MVP of the Finals, averaged 22.3 points in the series, which the Fever won 3-1 over the defending WNBA champions.

``When you come into this league, your goal and dream is to win a WNBA championship,'' Catchings said. ``Twelve years later ... it's so sweet right now.''

Catchings had won three Olympic gold medals and an NCAA championship at Tennessee in 1998, but never a WNBA one. She had been in a position to clinch at home before. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in the best-of-five WNBA Finals in 2009, but the Mercury beat the Fever 90-77, took the series back to Phoenix and won the title at home in Game 5.

This time, Catchings took it home with college coach Pat Summitt looking on in the crowd.

The Fever won even though No. 2 scorer Katie Douglas missed most of the series with a severely sprained left ankle. Douglas checked in with 3.2 seconds left to a loud ovation.

Erin Phillips added 18 points and eight rebounds while Shavonte Zellous and Briann January each had 15 points for the Fever.

Minnesota was trying to become the first team to repeat since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

``It was hard being the hunted, as we all know,'' Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ``There's a reason this hasn't been done in over 10 years. I really felt like if there was a team that could do it, it was our team.''

Indiana held Minnesota below 40 percent shooting in all three wins.

``They played good defense,'' Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen said. ``They contested shots and they made it tough for us to get in the lane a little bit. I think that was the theme of the whole series. They were just tough, and give them credit for the way they played.''

Indiana led 63-58 at the end of the third quarter of Game 4. Minnesota cut Indiana's lead to 70-67 on a jumper by Maya Moore, but Phillips scored on a drive past Moore, got a defensive rebound, then found Shavonte Zellous for a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Fever a 75-67 lead with 4:58 remaining.

Indiana led by at least five points the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by January gave Indiana an 80-72 lead with 1:18 to play. Reeve was called for a technical with 57.6 seconds remaining, Catchings made the free throw and the Fever took an 81-74 lead. Zellous made two more free throws with 27.2 seconds to play, and Fever fans began celebrating.

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota's leading scorer in the playoffs, was held to eight points on 3-for-21 shooting on Sunday. She shot 6-for-30 in the final two games of the series after the Fever switched January over to guard her.

Catchings said January, who was on the WNBA first-team all-defense squad, did her job.

``I think she set the tone,'' Catchings said. ``All her (Augustus') baskets were hard. She used up all her energy in the first quarter.''

Whalen scored 22 points and Moore added 16 points for the Lynx, who were vying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

Moore picked up her third foul with 6:13 left in the second quarter. Reeve, who was fined for her jacket-tossing tantrum in Game 2, became animated again while disagreeing with the call. As the crowd erupted, Reeve waved hello and made the motion for a technical foul.

This time, Reeve's antics didn't help much as in Game 2, when her team pulled away from a tight contest after her technical foul for a convincing win. Minnesota tied the game three times in the second quarter, but the Fever closed with a 7-2 run, including a 3-pointer by Phillips, to take a 47-42 lead at halftime. Whalen scored 14 points in the first half to keep the Lynx in the game, often scoring on uncontested drives. Minnesota hung tough, despite Augustus shooting 2-for-13 in the first half.

It was right there for the Fever.

``Coming into halftime, we said we have 20 minutes and we're not trying to go back to to Minnesota to close this thing out,'' Zellous said.

Indiana started the second half on a 9-4 run, including two buckets by Catchings, to take a 56-46 lead.

Minnesota came right back. A driving layup by Moore cut Indiana's lead to 56-54 and forced the Fever to call timeout.

Minnesota tied the game on another drive by Moore, but the Fever responded with a 3-pointer by Catchings and a basket by Jessica Davenport to push the lead back to five by the end of the quarter.

Indiana then closed the deal at home in front of a sellout crowd.

``They made some huge runs at us and gave it everything at us, and I'm just relieved more than anything because we deserve this,'' Phillips said. ``We've been through so much as a team, we've lost in crucial times and we've stuck together. I'm just so proud right now.''

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 5: WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT TORONTO RAPTORS

Series: Series tied 2-2
Where: Air Canada Centre
Tip-off: 7:02 p.m. (earlier tipoff than usual)
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Pivotal game

The Wizards have done their part in winning both games at home to even up this series at 2-2. Now comes Game 5, which could very well determine who takes this series.

Winners of Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 hold a 164-34 (.828) record all-time. That means teams that lose Game 5 come back to win the final two games and the series only 17.2 percent of the time.

The Wizards need to get this one and they know all too well why. Last year they were in this same position in their second round series against the Boston Celtics. They went down 0-2, won the next two games but then lost Game 5 and ultimately the series in seven games.

Road warriors

The Wizards will also have to do something they have yet to do in a while in Game 5 and that is win on the road. Though they have won eight straight home postseason games, they have lost their last six on the road. It goes back to that Celtics series when Washington lost all four games in Boston. The last time they won on the road in the playoffs was Game 6 last year against the Hawks.

The Raptors are particularly tough in Toronto. They were 34-7 this season at home, tied with the Houston Rockets for the best record in the NBA. 

The recent historical odds are also in Toronto's favor. Since 2003, the home team has won each of the first four games in a seven-game series 35 times. In those series, the home team has held a Game 5 record of 22-13 and a series record of 26-9. If the Raptors get Game 5, history will be on their side to go on to win the series.

Can Otto get going?

Games 3 and 4 in Washington saw All-Star Bradley Beal break out to score 28 and 31 points. Will we see the same from Otto Porter before this series is over?

Game 4 seemed to suggest that is possible. After scoring only one point in the first half, Porter erupted for 10 points in the third quarter alone. Though he only scored 12 points in the game overall, it was the most aggressive we have seen him all series.

Porter is averaging just 10.3 points per game through four playoff games. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three, and as long as the Wizards are winning he won't complain, but Porter can do much more than that on offense. If he starts scoring more, the Wizards will be tough to stop.

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OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS

For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Need to Know: Final Redskins seven-round mock draft

Need to Know: Final Redskins seven-round mock draft

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 25, one day before the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.  

Final seven-round Redskins mock draft

Here we go. No trades. If you like big guys you’ll like the first four picks. 

Round 1, DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama—I think that Vita Vea will be off the board; it’s looking more and more like he will go the Raiders at 10 or Miami at 11. Payne might be the better player anyway, assuming that Jim Tomsula can coach some pass rush out of him. If Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James is on the board the Redskins may have to adjust their thinking. 

Round 2, OL Billy Price, Ohio State—I had a running back in mind here but the run at the position came earlier than expected. Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb were all off the board. The decision was to get a guy to insert at left guard and complete a home-grown O-line that can hopefully create running room for whatever back takes the handoff. 

Round 4, RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State—I’m going with the best available running back here. The analytics types really like his combination of size (6-1, 228) and speed (4.46 in the 40 at the combine). Also, he shared carries with the Sun Devils so is a relatively low-mileage back (450 carries in four years). Ballage scored eight touchdowns in a game as a junior so he could be what the team needs in the red zone. 

Round 5, DL R.J. McIntosh, Miami—The Redskins have spent so little draft capital on the defensive line over the past two decades that it’s easy to justify doubling up there in one draft. McIntosh is a project, but he has high-level athleticism and quickness and those are traits you can’t teach. It might take him all of this year and next offseason in the weight room to build up his core strength and to add some weight onto his 286-lb. frame. 

Round 5, CB Nick Nelson, Wisconsin—While working out for the Lions last week, Nelson suffered a torn meniscus. That dropped his draft stock from perhaps being a Day 2 pick to one who should still be on the board on Saturday afternoon. The rehab for the 2017 All-Big Ten selection has been estimated at three to four months, meaning that he could be ready for the start of training camp. One more note: he was the Badgers’ punt returner last year and he averaged 8.6 yards per return with one touchdown. 

Round 6, TE David Wells, San Diego St.—While Jay Gruden and Doug Williams both seem to be confident that Jordan Reed will be healthy and ready to go by the time the regular season starts the truth will emerge in the draft. If they take a tight end early, they are very concerned about Reed. If they wait until this point in the draft and take a project like Wells, they are only moderately worried. 

Round 7, WR Auden Tate, Florida State—He’s coming off of a separated shoulder and that might push the 6-4 Tate down the board. Tate would be a project; he only caught 65 passes in 22 game at Florida State. He doesn’t have blazing speed (4.68 in the 40) but he competes for the ball and he could be a good red zone asset. 

Round 7, CB Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech—You can’t have too many corners or edge rushers and since there aren’t enough of the latter to go around in this draft I took a corner here. Stroman doesn’t have ideal size at 5-11, 182 but he paid attention during his four years with the Hokies and he plays with good technique. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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In response to a suggestion that former kick returner Devin Hester should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer:

Timeline 

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 16
—OTAs start (5/22) 27
—Training camp starts (7/26) 92

The Redskins last played a game 115 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 137 days. 

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