INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve drew national attention with her screaming, jacket-tossing meltdown in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals.
The Indiana Fever silenced her in Game 3. Shavonte Zellous scored a career-high 30 points to help the Fever beat the Lynx 76-59 on Friday night.
“You know, I was fired up for this game,” Zellous said. “That Game 2 left a bad taste in our mouth. You know, we could have done a better job in a lot of different things, and I think today, we made a conscious effort to do things better.”
Tamika Catchings added 17 points and Erlana Larkins had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Fever, who took a 2-1 lead in the series and can win their first title at home Sunday night against the defending champs.
It had been a tense series. Reeve was fined after her actions in Game 2, which Fever coach Lin Dunn called “disrespectful.”
Indiana’s play did the talking on Friday. The Fever’s lead of 70-33 with 1:58 left in the third quarter was the largest lead by any team in WNBA Finals history. The extent of the blowout left Reeve seated with her hand on her chin for much of the second half.
Rebekkah Brunson, who scored 12 points, was the only Minnesota player to reach double figures.
“I think Indiana played the way Indiana always plays,” Reeve said. “They defend. You defend, you have a chance to win a championship. That’s it.”
When asked what the Lynx need to do differently in Game 4, Reeve simply said, “Score more points than them.”
Minnesota’s previous playoff scoring low this season was 70 points against the Fever in Game 1 of the Finals. Maya Moore was held to eight points in Game 3 and Seimone Augustus, who scored 27 points in Game 2, had six on 3-for-9 shooting on Friday night. Minnesota finished with just six assists.
Indiana did it all without No. 2 scorer Katie Douglas. She is still sidelined with a severely sprained left ankle. Reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen is out with a left knee injury.
The game was intense again, but in control. The only incident was a rare technical called against Catchings with the game well in hand for the Fever.
Indiana led 21-16 at the end of the first quarter, and the Fever extended their lead to 28-18 in the second quarter, forcing the Lynx to call a timeout.
A no-look pass by Catchings directly led to a 3-pointer by Zellous that gave the Fever a 33-20 advantage. On Indiana’s next possession, Catchings drove through traffic for a layup to push the lead to 15. The Fever held Minnesota scoreless for 3:40 during a 12-0 run to take a 40-20 edge.
Indiana led 45-27 at halftime. Minnesota shot 5-for-19 from the field in the second quarter. Those tough, contested shots the Lynx made in the first quarter didn’t fall in the second. Indiana outrebounded Minnesota 20-15 in the first half, forced nine turnovers and committed just three.
“We started the offense by going at them on the defensive end,” Zellous said. “We were able to get an attack. We were pushing up on them. We didn’t let them do what they did to us on Game 2, and it made our job so much easier on offense.”
The Fever didn’t rest. Catchings’ baseline jumper pushed Indiana’s lead back to 20 early in the third quarter. Erin Phillips was fouled on a 3-pointer by Monica Wright, and she fell to the ground in front of Reeve. Phillips made all three free throws to make it 54-29.
Indiana continued to pour it on and led 70-38 at the end of the third quarter.
The Fever went on cruise control in the fourth quarter as Minnesota tried to make the score more respectable. Zellous finally made Indiana’s first field goal of the fourth quarter with 2:21 remaining, and the Fever still had a 20-point lead at that point.
Indiana knows the series isn’t over. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in 2009 and could have clinched in Game 4 at home. Indiana lost that game, then lost Game 5 and the series in Phoenix.
“We sat in the huddle and I told everybody, ‘Don’t get excited about this. Do not get excited,'” Catchings said. “We’ll come back in here tomorrow, we’ll look at some video and get better tomorrow and we’ll come back out Sunday. I don’t want anybody celebrating. None of that.”
The Fever also know Minnesota won’t quit.
“We expect the defending champs to come out and play like their backs are against the wall,” Fever guard Briann January said. “We know they’re going to give everything, and we have to respond and we have to bring everything we have. It’s going to be another war.”
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