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Fever look to close out WNBA Finals in Game 4

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Fever look to close out WNBA Finals in Game 4

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings hasn't forgotten how close she came to clearing the biggest hurdle of her basketball career.

Catchings is a seven-time All-Star, five time defensive player of the year and the 2011 WNBA MVP. She also has won three Olympic gold medals, but is still seeking her first league championship.

That almost changed in 2009. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in the best-of-five WNBA Finals and hosted Game 4 at home. The city was fired up and ready to celebrate, but the Mercury beat the Fever 90-77, took the series back to Phoenix and won the title at home in Game 5.

Indiana is again on the cusp of the championship after beating Minnesota 76-59 in Game 3 of the finals on Friday to take a 2-1 lead. Once again, the Fever can clinch at home. This time, Catchings will take a different approach.

``Don't let your highs get you too high and let your lows get you too low,'' she said Saturday. ``I felt like we celebrated too much after Game 3 in 2009 and we came out in Game 4 and had an opportunity and we let it slip away.''

The Fever are in position to win the title, in part, because of Shavonte Zellous' career-high 30 points on Friday. Indiana led 70-33 late in the third quarter, the largest lead ever for a team in a finals game.

Catchings expects a tougher contest on Sunday.

``I think that, for us, it's going to be a 40-minute game,'' she said. ``We're going to have to come out and play Fever basketball for 40 minutes. We talked about that as a team, just not getting content with where we're at. We're 40 minutes away, so we have to come out and stay focused and stay ready.''

A win by the defending champion Lynx - vying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001 and '02 - would send the series back to Minneapolis for a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Minnesota was embarrassed by its play in Game 3, but is focused on the fact that they can still win the title.

``We are disappointed with yesterday,'' Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson said. ``That is done and over with. We can't do anything about that. We have to be optimistic about tomorrow and being able to do what we have to do. We haven't lost any confidence we still know what we are capable of doing. So we are just going to step on the court tomorrow and prove it.''

Catchings knows how talented the Lynx are - she played with Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen on the U.S. Olympic team at the London Games during the summer. Anything less than absolute focus could extend the series.

``We've talked about defense, we've talked about offense, making a few changes, but really I think the biggest thing is just intensity,'' Catchings said.

Fever center Erlana Larkins has had 15 rebounds in each of Indiana's wins in the series. Larkins said team rebounding will play a role in whether the Fever can end the series on Sunday.

``We have to come out and continue to be in attack mode,'' she said. ``We have to rebound most importantly and then, secondly, continue to take care of the ball.''

Minnesota took the intensity to the Fever in Game 2, but Indiana was more assertive in Game 3. Whalen said that needs to change in Game 4.

``We need to be coming out with a little more aggressive mindset and mentality,'' she said. ``You wish you weren't saying that in the finals, that you have to get up there and be more intense and be more on the ball, but we need to have that. Good thing for us because we have another game tomorrow night to come out here and do better.''

Minnesota outscored the Fever 21-6 in the fourth quarter on Friday. Minnesota hopes to draw from the strong finish, even though the game was clearly decided at that point.

``What we do want to bottle up is the energy and intensity that the second group, the bench players, came in and played with,'' Augustus said.

Indiana will be without reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen for the rest of the series. The Fever announced that she tore the ACL in her left knee during Game 2 in Minneapolis. Fever guard Katie Douglas has missed the whole series with a sprained left ankle.

Minnesota didn't seem concerned about either situation.

``Them being down two players has nothing to do with anything,'' Brunson said. ``They have been playing well without them. So it's not like this is something new that just happened for tomorrow night. They have been playing extremely well with the team that they have and they are going to play that way tomorrow.''

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

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USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.

 

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