When the offense hit a wall in the final period, Tamika Catchings and Erlana Larkins fueled a timely Fever surge.
The highest-scoring, best-shooting team in the WNBA during the regular season went cold Sunday when it mattered most.
Icy, bitter cold. The Lynx made only two of 17 shots in the fourth quarter in losing their home-court advantage in the best-of-five WNBA Finals.
Indiana, despite playing without one of its top players, upset the defending league champion Lynx 76-70 in Game 1 at Target Center before an announced crowd of 14,322.
Erlana Larkins, the surprise of the playoffs so far, dominated inside. The 6-1 forward from North Carolina scored 16 points and had 15 rebounds. She made all five of her shots in the first half.
"She's relentless," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Larkins, who is averaging a double-double in the playoffs after becoming a starter in the second-to-last game of the season. "You know it's her only job to go in there and rebound the ball."
Tamika Catchings, the league's Defensive Player of the Year, struggled to score her team-high 20 points for the Fever. She was 6-for-20 from the field but had four blocks and three steals.
Indiana outscored the Lynx 38-24 in the paint, primarily because of Larkins.
"She is exactly the type of player that we have been looking for, what I call a warrior," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "She does the dirty work. She sets the hard screen. She goes and gets the rebound. She's got three players hanging on her and she goes back up."
Reeve was asked if the Lynx, who had six days off before the game, were prepared for Larkins. "Obviously not," she said.
Indiana lost back-to-back games to the Lynx in mid-September and came to Minneapolis without guard Katie Douglas, back in Indianapolis rehabilitating the left ankle she sprained against Connecticut on Thursday.
Douglas had 14 and 17 points in the Fever's two losses to the Lynx. But Indiana didn't need her. Indiana led most of the game until Lindsay Whalen scored on a drive midway through the third quarter to put the Lynx ahead 52-50.
Jessica Davenport's three-point play early in the fourth quarter gave Indiana the lead for good at 61-60, and the Fever's lead mushroomed to 10 points.
Seimone Augustus led the Lynx with 23 points, but the home team committed 17 turnovers and shot 39.1 percent from the field.
"They did an awesome job of making every cut and making every shot difficult," Augustus said.
The Lynx outrebounded Indiana 38-30, but the Fever clamped down on defense. In the fourth quarter, the Fever blocked four shots and forced four Lynx turnovers.
"We knew we had to keep them off the boards," Larkins said,. They are a great rebounding team. And then we had to make it hard for their All-Stars, slash Olympians, to get going."
Regulars at Target Center this season had not seen anything like this. The Lynx had been 19-1 at home, with three playoff victories. They had averaged 86 points in all games during the regular season and shot a near WNBA record 47.3 percent from the field.
Catchings, a 11-year league veteran longing for her first league title, took a positive approach to playing on the road. "This is the environment you live for, you live to play in," she said. "Honestly when we first ran out, we both ran out at the same time, so the crowd was going crazy.
"I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, they are cheering for us.' "
Catchings was making a joke. But nobody associated with the Lynx was in a mood to laugh.
|Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson||2||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: V. Mazzaro||4|
|Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman||6||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: B. Morrow||12|
|Cleveland - WP: Z. McAllister||12||FINAL|
|Boston - LP: R. Dempster||3|
|Minnesota - LP: J. Burton||6||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Benoit||7|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Blanton||5||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: E. Santana||4|