by Scott Agness – Follow Scott
MINNEAPOLIS — Her bio may say she’s a rookie head coach, but Stephanie White sure isn’t coaching like one. She’s the first rookie head coach to reach the WNBA Finals.
But White said she learned a valuable lesson Tuesday following the Indiana Fever’s 77-71 loss to the Minnesota Lynx loss in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals.
“I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials,” she said passionately. “Who would have known that? Because this game was a bloodbath. I’ve never seen a player of Tamika Catchings’ caliber get so disrespected in my life. Never. And, to me, that’s a travesty.
“So one up for the veteran [referring to to Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve], and a lesson learned for the rookie.”
Reeve, who’s led the Lynx since 2010 and has two WNBA titles (2011, 2013), knew what she was doing the day before. Standing in the paint of the basket closest to the Lynx bench, Reeve said the following in response to Lindsay Whalen, who had just four points in Game 1, not playing aggressively.
“Don’t get fined. I don’t want to go down this road,” Reeve said, and then she went down that road. “She’s had to adjust to a new style because, like I said, it’s not the same when she goes in [the paint]. Every game, we’ll go, ‘Whalen doesn’t get that call,’ and it’s very discouraging.”
When asked to respond to White’s comments, Reeve said “I can’t comment on officiating,” and then joked in a sarcastic manner, noting that Renee Brown, the Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations was in the room, that it was the first time she had nothing to say regarding the officials.
Before the game, when the list of officials was distributed, I turned to those on press road and said how this was a bad crew. And it was. It certainly was not a Finals-worthy crew.
The Fever were a confident and determined bunch Tuesday but they got taken out of their game and lost composure in a 77-71 loss. They had a two-point lead at the half despite getting little from their leader, Tamika Catchings. She played a little more than eight minutes and was scoreless.
Officiating was an issue all game long because it limited Catchings, who felt “very strongly” that her team missed a real opportunity, and the game was called inconsistently. The way the way the game was trending — the calls, the turnovers, the poor execution — got to the Fever and they lost it in winning time.
“We put ourselves in the position to win this game and at the end of the day, we’re frustrated more so because we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had,” said Catchings, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists.
“… As a team, we lost our poise, we lost our composure — and we’re too good for that. We’re too good of a team to let things like that detour us in what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Fever got the lead — both in the series and in Game 2 — by playing their style of basketball of getting everyone involved, limiting their turnovers and minimizing the Lynx’s impact on the glass.
Over the final 5:20 of the game, the Fever made one field goal and scored just four points. They committed turnovers on six consecutive possessions. Ball game.
Shenise Johnson on how the Fever closed the game. “We didn’t take care of the ball the last two minutes of the game. It was a one-possession game and we had about five turnovers in a row.”
Still, the Fever got the stops they needed in the final minutes to have a chance. They trimmed the deficit from five, to three and then they committed a shot-clock violation with 56.5 seconds left. Anna Cruz scored at the other end as the Lynx held on for a six-point victory, the same point total separating the two teams in Game 1.
After three turnovers in the first half, they gave it away 14 times in the second half. Indiana’s three primary ball handlers — Catchings (6), Briann January (5), and Shavonte Zellous (4) — were responsible for 15 of the team’s 17 turnovers. Crazy-high numbers.