Was it the head cold…

or was that a fierce, feisty game?

From Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune: Lynx defeat Indiana, even WNBA Finals at 1-1 – Referees play big role in physical game, much to the chagrin of the Fever.

Well, now  we have a series.

After the Lynx tied the best-of-five WNBA finals at one game each with a 77-71 victory over Indiana at Target Center on Tuesday, there were radically different takes on the game.

To the Lynx it was a physical, aggressive game, just the sort you’d expect from a team with its back against the wall.

“The refs did a great job tonight,” Seimone Augustus observed. “They didn’t call anything. They let us play, and that’s what playoff basketball is all about.”

To the Fever? Well, let’s just say first-year coach Stephanie White saw things differently.

AP: Sylvia Fowles, Lynx even WNBA Finals; Fever coach livid about officiating

From Michele: Fever struggle to overcome Tamika Catchings’ foul trouble in Game 2

“I told our team, we are going to bottle up every sense of frustration, every sense of anger, every sense of knowing what we didn’t do and what we didn’t accomplish tonight, put that in a bottle and let it explode when we get back home,” said Catchings, who on Tuesday tied the league record for postseason games played at 64

Jon Krawczynski, AP: With Fever still fuming, Lynx ‘ready to go’ for WNBA Finals Game 3

“I learned a valuable lesson today,” White said. “I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials. Who would have known?”

White called Game 2 “a blood bath” and said Shenise Johnson was “doubled over” by a hard screen set in the fourth quarter. The Fever picked up two technical fouls in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over 14 times in the second half, leaving them with the feeling that they kicked away a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

“We know that we didn’t take care of business when it came down the stretch,” Catchings said.

From David Wood at the Indy Star: WNBA tells Fever coach Stephanie White to ‘keep quiet’ on officiating

Stephanie White has been a public figure long enough that she doesn’t need her 15 minutes of fame.

That’s what the coach received for outspoken criticism of officiating after the Indiana Fever’s 77-71 loss at Minnesota in Tuesday’s Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. Her comments were broadcast and discussed on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “Around The Horn.”

It remains to be seen whether gamesmanship influences Friday’s Game 3 against the Lynx at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (8 p.m., ESPN2). White said a league official asked her not to complain publicly again, and she was not fined. The best-of-five series is tied 1-1.

“The basic message is just to keep it quiet. But I couldn’t keep it quiet at that moment,” White said.

Josh Zavadil at the .com: Indiana Ready To Play In Front Of Hometown Fans Once Again

Just a five-minute stroll through the streets of downtown Indianapolis will make one thing clear: this city is behind the Indiana Fever. Storefronts display “Go Fever” signs, and it’s evident that Indiana’s run to the WNBA Finals has the city’s full attention.

On Friday — which Mayor Greg Ballard is declaring to be “Fever Friday” in Indianapolis — that attention focuses in on Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Game 3 of the WNBA Playoffs 2015 presented by Boost Mobile will tip at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

Also from Josh:Fever Carrying Bottled Up Frustration Into Game 3

“I’m extremely excited,” center Erlana Larkins said ahead of Game 3. “I mean, after Game 2 we were pissed. We were pissed. We’re just ready to get back on the court. It’s a great thing to be back here in front of our fans, and they’re going to cheer us on and hopefully cheer us on to a victory.”

Bob Kravitz says, “Let’s give the Indiana Fever some love!”

I understand that women’s pro basketball remains something of a niche sport, especially in cities with successful men’s pro franchises, but let’s take nothing away from one of the best organizations in all of sports – men’s or women’s.

And let’s start here: Let’s talk about Tamika Catchings, who is not only one of the greatest female basketball players or all time, but is every bit the good corporate citizen as Peyton Manning or any other more well-known athletes. Grab a glimpse of Tamika while you can; next year will be here final year in the WNBA, and she hopes to polish off a brilliant career with a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. Catchings has been the Fever’s heart and soul for years and years, and belongs on the Indy Sports Mount Rushmore right next to Manning and Reggie Miller. She’s already brought one ring to the city, and she has a chance to bring a second one as the Fever take on the favored Minnesota Lynx.

Audio add on: Katz: The Fever Are Everything That’s Good

The combined efforts of the Indiana Fever and the hashtag #FeverFull will bring thousands to downtown Indianapolis Friday night to cheer on the Fever to a game three WNBA Finals victory.  Tony Katz and the team at The Morning News have taken great joy in promoting this proud franchise, a franchise that staffs some of the great spots ambassadors for the state of Indiana.

So why has Tony Katz taken such a sudden interest in the Fever, when listeners identify him as more of a football and futball guy? 

It’s because the Fever represent everything that’s good.  It’s because the Fever can distract us from all of the bad that’s recently plagued the world.  The team has generated excitement for the city of Indianapolis and has offered another reason why Indy is such a great place to live.   

Tony is specific in the commentary below. 

Cool: Indy Lines Up For The Fever – Thousands get tickets to see the Indiana Fever in Game Three

Canadian Cool: Markham’s Sutton-Brown earns WNBA honours

Tammy Sutton-Brown’s time in playing with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever will not be forgotten.

In helping the Fever capture the 2012 WNBA title, the 37-year-old Markham resident and former Fever centre will be honoured when the club hosts the third game of the WNBA finals against the Minnesota Lynx in Indianapolis, Friday.

From Marcus Fuller at the Pioneer Press: Lynx prep for another physical battle in Game 3

The Minnesota Lynx didn’t know how physical the WNBA Finals would be until they were bullied by the Indiana Fever on their home court in a disappointing Game 1 loss.

Their response was to toughen up and be ready for a “blood bath” as Fever coach Stephanie White described Minnesota’s Game 2 victory that tied the series 1-1.

Now that both teams are battle tested, it will be critical for the Lynx not to back down against a frustrated Fever team in Game 3 on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Table slap aside, David Woods says: Shenise Johnson continues to surprise for Fever

The .com has 10 Numbers That Tell the Story of the Finals So Far

BTW: Game 1 of 2015 #WNBAFinals Most-Watched Game Ever on ABC.

Anyone else hoping this goes to five?

Mechelle says, “What about that ’09 class!”

Indiana guard Briann January threw her head back and let out an exultant “yes!!!!” when it was mentioned. Then she high-fived teammates Marissa Coleman and Shavonte Zellous.

On this particular topic, she would have done the same even with someone on the “enemy” side, Minnesota’s Renee Montgomery. And with six other players dispersed throughout the WNBA.

What do they have in common? All were selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, and that group of seniors has proven to be one of the more successful classes.

Reviewing the season, Mechelle writes: Finals help WNBA hit high note despite early-season adversities

…from the perspective of the Lynx and the Fever, what’s happened on the court this season is more important than what happened off it.

“The quality of play was really good, the playoff races were tight,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We have great parity, because every team has good players on it.

“What I said from the beginning of this year is that the league is bigger than one player or situation. And we’ve seen that’s the case.”

And, to counter the high note, about Sheryl Swoopes’ low note. I didn’t link the interview because I didn’t have the brain space to articulate my reaction beyond “wth!” Not so much helpful. So, I appreciate Kate Fagan’s take: What Sheryl Swoopes Got Wrong About Today’s WNBA

Sheryl Swoopes is one of the most famous women’s basketball players in history, with a platform bigger than most current players, and with a voice that many casual fans listen to and respect.

Her words carry weight. What she says matters.

So when she shares thoughts that seem half-baked, that’s a problem. And when her words seem to be just casually reinforcing a stereotype about the WNBA that current players have been working hard to reshape, that’s also a problem. And when those words also seem vaguely homophobic, that’s a really big problem.

And because that’s no way to end a blog posting, and because I like the name, tagline and headline: At the Hardwood Paroxysm (unbiased opinions from extremely biased people Philip Rossman-Reich has The WNBA foreshadowed the NBA’s positional revolution

Really the positional revolution, if we can call it that, is simply coaches seeking a strategy that gives them a competitive advantage (it was not Rashard Lewis’ three-point shooting that made the Magic successful in the late 2000s, but his ability to defend the traditional power forward) and maximizes the talent on the roster. Don Nelson was testing out crazy lineups and offensive strategies throughout the 1990s — he saw the true potential in Dirk Nowitzki.

Where though has the NBA seen the model for how games would be played in the future?

Believe it or not, the WNBA has eschewed the straight post-up for some time now. A lot of it was certainly out of necessity. With virtually no players who can play above the rim, the offenses tend to focus less on isolations and pure athleticism and more on keeping the paint clear for cutters and movement.

Still, it would be easy to have players in that league just be bullies down on the block. The league though has never skewed that way.

an adventure – but at least I’ll be able to catch Game 2 – albeit prone and enthusiastically medicated. (A shout out to the WHYY security guard who had Game 1 on the t.v. screen. As he said, “You’ve got to watch this – it’s the Championship!)

In preparation game:

From Mechelle: A more mature Shenise Johnson makes an immediate impact for Indiana

Indiana guard Shenise Johnson writes poems that are sometimes meant to last and other that are meant to go away shortly after they’re created.

“I like to express myself as an outlet, a stress-reliever. So I’m not punching walls or doing anything like that,” she said, chuckling. “It allows you to evaluate, to write something down and release it.

“Then, it’s over and done with and I can do what I please with it. I can throw it out, burn it, or I could keep it and reread it.”

The .com’s Zavadil notes: Coleman, Zellous, January Share Bond That Began in 2009

Cohesion as a unit is a trait that goes hand-in-hand with a championship-caliber team. For the Indiana Fever, that cohesiveness is evident from Tamika Catchings down to the end of the bench.

But for Briann January, Shavonte Zellous and Marissa Coleman, their friendship extends far longer than just the few seasons they’ve played together. All three were first round draft picks in the 2009 WNBA Draft.

AP Jon Krawczynski says Minnesota Lynx coach calls out stars after losing Game 1 of WNBA Finals

Michelle says coach says, not really:

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve challenged the notion that she challenged veteran guards Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus after Sunday’s 75-69 Game 1 loss to Indiana in the WNBA Finals.

“I don’t necessarily know that I challenged them,” Reeve said Monday. “I was asked, ‘Do they need to do more?’ and I confirmed what everybody sees, that they need to do more.”

In the moments following Sunday’s loss, Reeve indeed was questioned about the need to get more offensive production from her perimeter players.

The Star Tribune’s Kent Youngblood keeps it simple: Lynx need more from veterans Augustus, Whalen in Game 2

Late Sunday afternoon, after her team had lost Game  1 of the Western Conference finals, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve calmly, publicly, challenged Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus to do more.

Monday, subtly, the narrative had changed.

Reeve did not back down from anything she said, though she characterized her comments as less of a challenge than a simple response to a question of whether she needed more from her guards.

Yes, she does.

But Monday she pledged to do more to help them, particularly Whalen. Reeve suggested part of the problem might be in the way games are being called. 

Mechelle offers: Team chemistry helps carry Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx in WNBA Finals

The Minnesota Lynx had a basketball clinic with kids on Monday at Target Center, which was exactly what her team needed, according to guard Maya Moore.

That might seem a bit odd, considering the Lynx were coming off a 75-69 loss to Indiana in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. One might think they would have been too tense to have much patience for the youngsters. However, knowing the personality of the Lynx, it makes more sense that they seemed to enjoy it so much.

In college news:

Nebraska: Theriot, Shepard coming back from injuries together

Rachel Theriot and Jessica Shepard rode their bicycles together one day last week from lunch to the Hendricks Training Complex, where the Nebraska women’s basketball team practices.

That’s been a common scene over the past few months — the Huskers’ senior guard and freshman forward riding together — although it’s usually been on stationary bicycles at the practice gym.

On those bikes were two who could be the Huskers’ best players this season, each trying to stay in shape as they continued their comebacks from major injuries.

Montana: Lady Griz thinking reload, not rebuild

Usually when a coach starts telling you about preseason unknowns, it comes across as a preemptive excuse in case things go awry.

Not Robin Selvig. His Montana women’s basketball team may have lost three key starters from last year’s Big Sky Conference championship crew, but don’t expect him to cry poor.

“There’s lots of opportunity now for someone else to step up,” said Selvig, whose squad will hold its first practice Tuesday. “It’s going to be a different look but it’s fun to see each team take on its own personality. There’s lots of questions and lots of fun things to try and decide.”

Colorado: ‘New feeling in the air’ for Linda Lappe’s Buffs

There is no out of bounds when the Colorado women’s basketball team gets on the practice court.

If there’s a loose ball, the Buffaloes are fighting for it until somebody corrals it. If that battle goes all the way to the seats, so be it. The player who eventually secures the ball is applauded. 

“I feel like there’s just a new feeling in the air,” senior Jamee Swan said Monday after the Buffs completed their first official practice of the 2015-16 season. “Nobody is going to let what happened last year happen again.”

Last season was CU’s worst in the five-year tenure of head coach Linda Lappe, as it finished 15-17 and failed to reach the postseason for the first time under her direction.

Connecticut: UConn Women’s Insider: Geno Auriemma’s Global Reach

Let’s take a moment to chart UConn’s enormous global reach in women’s basketball.

We start in Europe. Who would have guessed Elena Delle Donne’s first chance to help Geno Auriemma win a game would come in Girona, Spain, in 2015?

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team opened its European tour with an 84-52 victory over Uni Girona on Sunday, paced by 21 points from Delle Donne, playing in her first national team game against a Spanish team featuring Connecticut Sun guard Chelsea Gray.

“It was so much fun,” Delle Donne told reporters. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve had playing the game, with all these incredible players elevating everybody’s game.”

Florida: UF women’s basketball focused on improving toughness heading into season

Thanks to some unusual training methods, any school facing the Florida women’s basketball team this season would be wise to think better of starting a scrap with the Gators.

During the offseason, coach Amanda Butler made it a point to get her team out of its comfort zone.

In addition to taking them on a team “attack,” because they “never wanna retreat,” Butler also had the team to take boxing lessons.

“We want to be tough,” she said.

New Mexico: Aggie women look to build on last season

Success came a year early for the New Mexico State women’s basketball.

The Aggies won a Western Athletic Conference championship with a young core group of players that all returned to practice for the 2015-16 season on Sunday.

“You look at my sophomore year and we had the talent but we just all had to grow up and go through those growing pains,” said Aggies senior guard Sasha Weber, who led the Aggies with 14.9 points per game last year and was a first-team All WAC selection.

Kansas: Small communities fostered Sports Hall of Famers’ careers

Shalee Lehning used to joke with her Atlanta Dream teammates when she made it to the WNBA that she used to have to drive 30 miles to the nearest movie theatre while growing up in Sublette.

Some couldn’t imagine what that would be like, but to Lehning, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“You understand what matters growing up in a small town,” Lehning said. “Community matters, people matter, relationships matter. Those are things that you’re doing because you’re spending time with people.”

Those small-town qualities were on full display Sunday night at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as 11 former coaches and athletes were inducted at the Scottish Rite Center.

You stay put: Missouri gives Pingeton 5-year contract through 2019-20

Illinois: Hopeful ISU women set to open practice

Slogging through a 2-28 season wasn’t a barrel of laughs for anyone associated with the Illinois State women’s basketball program.

Third-year coach Barb Smith expects the coming season, which begins with the first official practice on Sunday, to be much more enjoyable.

“This season is going to be a lot of fun,” Smith insisted. “We are ahead of where we’ve been since I’ve been here. The players worked extremely hard. The attitude of this team is so good right now, very positive.”

The sting of the worst season in program history was intensified when six players with eligibility remaining left the team shortly after the season. One of those, senior forward Sue Crump, changed her mind and was welcomed back to the roster by Smith.

Pennsylvania: Pitt women not doubting themselves after a tough year to top

Two years after winning just nine games, and in their second season under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, the Panthers won 20 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

By any account, Pitt was and still is ahead of schedule. But entering the 2015-16 season, it’s faced with a critical question: Once you’ve reached a certain height once, can you immediately do it again?


Just proving he’s a moral coward and a tone-deaf professional: Isiah Thomas denies wrongdoing in 2007 sexual harassment case

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

About to hop in the car with the poppa and hit Philly for the “This I Believe: Philadelphia” event, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about today’s game (or that “Other” game – yes, I enjoyed the concert…sigh. And I really enjoyed this season.). I’m looking forward to the “Battle of the Healthy Heavyweights.” – nice to see the W doing the bumping, isn’t it?

BTW: Did you know the WNBA Finals features Philly connection

From the AP: Lynx want WNBA Finals redemption against Indiana

 Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx waltzed into the 2012 WNBA Finals ready for a coronation.

It was supposed to be the beginning of a dynasty, with the powerful Lynx sure to overwhelm heavy underdog Indiana for their second straight championship.

Tamika Catchings had other ideas.

Catchings and the Fever took it to the defending champions, stunning them in Game 1 in Minnesota and taking the best-of-five series 3-1 for the franchise’s first championship.

Three years later, the two teams are meeting again. And this time, Moore said the Lynx will be ready for them.

Mike Max says the Lynx Focused On Winning Title, Not Revenge On Fever

Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and Timberwolves’ interim head coach Sam Mitchell chatted as their practices overlapped Thursday. It was a good problem to have because it means the Lynx are in the finals.

“No matter what, it’s just one more opponent we’re getting ready for. This is it, and this is where we were trying to get to and we’re here,” Reeve said.

Maybe what they have learned more than anything is how precious it is to make it to the WNBA Finals. And when you get here, you never know if it could be your last shot.

Swish Appeal is singing the coach White’s praises: Stephanie White etches name in with WNBA coaching greats as is Mechelle: Stephanie White sets bar high in first season as Fever head coach

Indiana coach Stephanie White really wasn’t sure she’d be in the WNBA this long. After retiring as a player, she spent four years as an assistant at the college level, and then went in that capacity to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.

“I bought into the idea of former players staying in the league to help the current players understand where we’ve come from and where we have to get to,” White said. “To be a part of molding that next generation of players. Because you could take it for granted, very easily, if you’ve grown up with the WNBA and didn’t know it could be taken away.”

The New York Times takes a look at the other bench: With Bold Coach, Lynx Find a Voice. It May Be Hoarse.

Two tense games in the W.N.B.A.’s Western Conference finals reduced Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve’s voice to a rasp. It had mostly recovered by midweek, when Reeve, dressed in blue-and-gray Lynx sweats, directed practice.

But it was not exactly right, and that bothered her.

“Is it better?” she asked. “I tried everything. It’s hard this time of year.”

Part teacher, part taskmaster and part tactician, Reeve is as much the voice and driving force of the Lynx franchise as the American Olympians Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen are the faces.

Speaking of coaches: Dishin & Swishin 10/01/15 Podcast: Previewing the WNBA finals with Mike Thibault & Brian Agler

More from Mechelle: Seimone Augustus as vital as ever to Lynx’s championship hopes

There are times when Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus has just the right message for her hard-driving and intense coach, Cheryl Reeve. It’s the kind of thing not just anybody could say, but Augustus always nails it.

“I joke with her: ‘You might need to get to the studio and get some yoga and find your happy place,'” Augustus said. “So she calls me the Zen master.”

The Star Tribune has a Sunday Q&A: Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson

Reusse: Moore’s arrival lifted Lynx from obscurity

The Lynx were 1-4 in the playoffs in 12 years of existence before Moore. They are 26-8 with Moore.
A franchise that couldn’t get out of its own way for a dozen years is now going for its third WNBA title in the five years of Maya Moore.

Have you ever seen such a winner?

“Maya’s not the quickest player, but she’s fast,” Petersen said. “She’s not the biggest player, but she’s physical. And she just makes so many plays.”

Petersen laughed slightly and said: “Some of them are drawn up in the game plan; some of them aren’t. The way I put it, ‘She goes rogue.’ Sometimes when she goes rogue, it turns into a great play. The rest of the time, Cheryl is yelling at her.

“I’ve never seen a great player get yelled at as much as Maya. She just takes it. Maya has that rare ability to put a bad play — a foul, missed shot, whatever — behind her and instantly get back in the moment.

From the Indy Star’s David Woods: How the Fever were built, player by player

When the Indiana Fever selected Tamika Catchings with the third pick of the 2001 WNBA draft, they secured their future for the next decade and a half.

Yet as great as she has been, the Fever have been to a record 11 consecutive postseasons not solely because of her – and not because of the draft. Not since 2005 have the Fever had a top-four pick.

Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s top executive for all of their 16 seasons, has kept the team near the top via trades, free-agent signings, judicious drafting and retention of key pieces.

Kent Youngblood says the  Lynx and Fever are meeting in a finals that’s about veterans, not youth: The Lynx have made a habit of reaching the finals, but it’s anything but routine 

Indeed, in an era where youth is trumpeted, this series is a throwback, with old vets rather than youngsters. The Lynx starters average 30.4 years of age, Indiana 29.2. The Lynx looking for a third title in five years, the fever a second in four seasons.

“This is a series that fans need to appreciate what they see on the floor,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former player who will be part of the ESPN broadcast crew. “Knowing Catchings only has a season left; this might be her last finals. Knowing this Lynx team, as it is put together right now, may be changing in the coming years. … It will be a great series.”

Busy Mechelle writes: WNBA Finals primer: Why Minnesota shouldn’t underestimate Indiana

This is the first time since 2006 — and just the fourth time overall — that the team with the best record in the league did not reach the WNBA Finals. So while the New York Liberty — who went 23-11 this season — must dwell on what went wrong in the Eastern Conference finals, the Indiana Fever move on to try to knock off the team with the second-best record this season: the West champion Minnesota Lynx, who were 22-12 in the regular season.

This is a repeat of the 2012 WNBA Finals, with a very similar cast of main characters, although there are a few new faces in this matchup.

Lynx Looking to Use Homecourt, Crowd to Their Advantage

Women’s Watch: Indiana Fever the real story of this WNBA season

Catchings, who led Stevenson to an IHSA state championship in 1995, has announced that next season will be her last in the WNBA. She is engaged and ready to marry, have children and move on with her life.

She reflected on that when she was in Chicago last month while leading the Fever to a first-round win over the Sky.

“Every time I go out, after this year, it becomes the last of everything,” Catchings said. “This is the last off-season, it will be the last first game.

“Really, this is just the opportunity to go out and enjoy my team. I love my teammates. They’re a great group of ladies and I’m savoring the moments.”

Catchings has certainly been saving some of her best moments for the playoffs.

Again from David: For female athletes, 35 might be the new 25

“We’ve done a really good job all season long just taking care of my body and making sure this is the time that I’m ready,” she said. “I’m ready to perform at the end of the season, and not necessarily at the beginning. So I feel great.”

There is scientific and anecdotal evidence that not only can women perform as well as they did a decade earlier, they can often do better. As women age, they become more aerobic, according to Krista Austin, a sports scientist and coach formerly employed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.  That is, women’s bodies absorb and transport oxygen more efficiently.

What Catchings is doing is not a new phenomenon.

For some of us, there a storyline that has added an interesting tinge to the games: The Holdout: Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles seeking redemption in WNBA Finals

Make a list of the worst sins a pro athlete could commit against the spirit of competition. Somewhere among those offenses, there will be The Holdout. The mere suggestion of such an act quickly calls up a set of images in the mind: of a star player acting selfishly, of a stubborn team at wit’s end. Before long the fan’s blood starts to boil, even though it rightly shouldn’t. This is a boardroom drama that still unfolds against the backdrop of capitalism, after all.

Yet those images, however much ingrained, are hard to reconcile in the WNBA, where the sisterhood is real and the relationships within are largely positive and everlasting. Those images don’t strictly line up with the Minnesota Lynx’s standout center—a big-hearted, soft-spoken, 29-year-old named Sylvia Fowles.

Finally, this is the really essential background reading you need to prep for the game today:

It’s Minnesota vs. Indiana in the WNBA Finals, so here’s a “best-of” look at these two states. We quizzed the natives that both teams have: Minnesota-born-and-raised Lindsay Whalen, the Lynx point guard, and Indiana-born-and-raised Stephanie White, the Fever’s head coach. As a Midwesterner who has spent a lot of time in both states, I’ll toss in my picks, too.

Best TV show set in the state

Whalen: “I’m too young for ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’; I missed that. I’ll go with ‘Coach.’ He was at Minnesota State, which we didn’t even have back then.” (Mankato State changed names to Minnesota State in 1999, two years after the TV show ended.)
Voepel: “I’m a lot older than Whalen and am the biggest ‘MTM’ fan on the planet. I’m just bummed that the famous Mary statue is currently in storage because of renovation work on Nicollet Mall.”

White: “Parks and Recreation.” (Set in wonderfully-fake-but-oh-so-real Pawnee.)
Voepel: “One Day at a Time” if I go with my cheesy 1970s bias; Ms. Romano and daughters lived in Indianapolis. Nah, I’ll choose “Parks and Rec,” too.

Let’s make this quick,

’cause I gotta go meet a principal….

Lib didn’t get my memo, blew a huge lead, and will now face another do-or-die game. Trying to figure out if I’m going to be one of those horrible people who attend concerts by have one eye on their phone ’cause they just can’t let the outside world go….

The Lynx rode Maya Moore’s heroics and a(n admitted by the WNBA) bad call into the Finals. This is what I’ll say about that call: people screw up. Sometimes they’re insignificant, sometimes they’re huge. This was a pretty big one, and I’m guessing the ref is not going to have a good week, or month or year. It’s the kind of screw up that sticks with you.

BUT – I have also heard the old whine, “You don’t make that call then. Let the players decide the game.” Sorry, but that’s straight up bull. If a player commits a foul, they DID decide the game. By saying refs “shouldn’t call that foul” you actually take it out of the hands of the players. Imagine the defensive player who draws that key end-of-the game charge invalidating a basket… and doesn’t get the call because it’s somehow verboten to call fouls at the end of a game. Bull. Talk to any official and they don’t want the clock dictating the use of their whistle.

Of course, if fans, coaches, players and broadcasters want the officials to step off the court during the last two minutes of a game, I’m sure the NCCA/WNBA rules committee would welcome that discussion.

Still trying to wrap my head around the Lib’s domination of Indy – mostly centered on the continued revival of Sugar’s game and the, “Wait, has it FINALLY clicked” of Kiah’s offensive game. Folks did a nice job filling the seats the “day after.”

Now it’s time to ponder what Indiana has in store for us today. I have a fondness for the Fever because, well, 1) Catch. ’nuff said 2) the coaching transition Lin and Stephanie have managed – wow, and 3) they keep you honest – smart, determined and fierce, when challenged, the whole group comes after you.

From David Woods at the Indy Star: Fever must defend better to keep season alive

Irrespective of coach or personnel, the Indiana Fever’s WNBA record of 11 successive playoff appearances was built on a foundation of defense. Cracks have been showing in this postseason.

In the past two games against Chicago (.571) and New York (.565), the Fever allowed the second- and third-highest shooting percentages in their postseason history. That can’t persist, or the Fever’s season will end Sunday.

From our AP folks: Tamika Catchings defies odds at 36 for Indiana Fever

Being down is nothing new to the third-seeded Fever. They trailed 1-0 in each of the first two rounds in 2012 and again in the first round this year before beating Chicago 2-1.

“Because we have the mental asset of having players that have been there, done that, going into the second game against Chicago, we were all on the same page,” Catchings said.

From Mechelle: Catchings, Fever need to control the game to stay alive in East finals

Back home at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, where Indiana went 11-6 during the regular season, the Fever have to play a very different kind of game than they did in the series opener Wednesday. That 84-67 New York victory at Madison Square Garden was a best-of-the-Liberty show, as they dominated offensively from both the perimeter and the paint.

“We talk about controlling the controllables,” Fever coach Stephanie White said after Wednesday’s game. “Our effort, the hustle plays, being there on our rotations, having each other’s backs, box outs, setting great screens, using screens. We didn’t take care of our controllables.

Bill Littlefield, Only A Game (no, that is NOT a photo of the Lib coach) does a little flashback: WNBA’s Liberty Focus On Defense — Not Distractions — During Playoffs

Howard Megdal, who’s been writing about the WNBA this season for VICE Sports, feels people who attribute the Liberty’s recent achievements to Thomas fail to understand who built the team. He credits Basketball Operations Director Kristin Bernert and Coach Bill Laimbeer, who also worked together in Detroit.

“The idea that you need someone to oversee, you know, a couple of people who have had great success and have worked hand-in-glove for the better part of a decade and a half here in the WNBA defies belief,” he said. “Isiah was working hard to just get up to speed on the league.”

As Howard Megdal has noted, Thomas could hardly fail to understand the reaction he provokes in fans, even as the team over which he presides has flourished.

“I mean, there was a remarkable moment. They honored Becky Hammon, the trail-blazer and former Liberty star,” he said. “Isiah, in a very smart PR move, came out with Becky Hammon’s parents. He still got booed just the same, but he had plausible deniability. He could claim that perhaps New York didn’t like Becky Hammon’s parents.”

I wouldn’t mind a three-game series… but I have Joan Armatrading tickets on Tuesday. So… GO, LIB!!!!

The story is not much different in the Land of No Bun. Behind “Beast Brunson” (hmmm, another Georgetown kid – Go, Old Big East!) Minnesota secured a win – though certainly not in the overwhelming manner one has been accustomed to. The surprising Merc have some work to do if they want to play one more. Writes Michelle: 

After dominating Tulsa in two games in a first-round sweep and seemingly scoring at will, Phoenix went cold in Minnesota.

“We have been moving the ball well and putting up a lot of points the last month or so,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “Maybe it was the moment, I don’t know. Some of these players haven’t been to the Western Conference Finals before. Minnesota has been there, done that, often. But we will go back to Phoenix and we know we will play better.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury’s rebounding woes put them on the brink of elimination

Guard/forward DeWanna Bonner: “Man, they killed us on the boards. Brunson, in particular.”

Something else that should be obvious after one game of the Western Conference finals: If the Mercury can’t figure out a way to keep Brunson and the rest of the Lynx from dominating the glass, the issue that has been their biggest weakness of 2015 will be the one that ends up cutting their postseason run short.

Awards: Griner, Loyd, Defensive Team, Quigs and Seattle.

Speaking of Indiana, in other news: Lutterman, Beeler, Owen stood tall among SIAC girls’ coaching pioneers

The times they were a-changin’ in the early 1970s.

Just six days after the Watergate break-in, Title IX — authored by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh — went into effect on June 23, 1972. No longer could anybody in the United States be discriminated against on the basis of sex.

Bayh’s legislation created equal opportunities for women in academics and athletics. Although Indiana was a little behind the times, local pioneers such as Ginger Lutterman, Brenda Beeler and Louise Owen made an indelible mark that still resonates to this day.

This winter will mark the 40th anniversary of the first Indiana High School Athletic Association’s girls’ state basketball tournament.

Swish Appeal on Candice Wiggins: 

If it were your last day on earth, would you be able to say you lived life to the fullest? If you ask Candice Wiggins, she’ll respond with an ardent, “Yes.”

Watching her on the court is almost as entertaining as watching her lift her players up court-side. After Hearing her teammates speak so highly of her throughout the season – even describing her as the anchor of team, I had to find out more.

Who is Candice Wiggins, and does that energy follow her everywhere?

Bye: Brie Mobley done with UNCW basketball program

Bye: Edwards leaving ASU women’s hoops as medical exemption

Ouch: South Carolina’s Tiffany Davis Suffers Knee Injury

From Jennifer Gish, Albany Times: Women hitting athletic director glass ceiling

When I told my 7-year-old son we were going to a college football game the other week, his first question was “Women’s or men’s?”

That proved our time at the women’s tackle football championship game this summer was well spent.

For all the mistakes I’ve made as a mother — like going anywhere when any of us is hungry — I’ve completely scored when it comes to opening my little boy’s eyes to realizing sports isn’t just a man’s game. 

Too bad athletics isn’t quite there yet.

Earlier this month, Juliet Macur had an excellent column for The New York Times about how too few women hold athletic director jobs at Division I colleges. The numbers are around 11 percent for Division I. Things get slightly better at Division II and III schools, and factoring them in, women run the athletic departments at about 20 percent of colleges and universities nationwide. If you’re wondering if this is radical progress over the past 20 years — as girls have crowded tot soccer fields and U.S. women have brought home the World Cup in front of thousands of fans who know their names. In 1995, 16 percent of college athletic directors were women, according to NCAA statistics.

Any Minnesotans got info? 

Dorothy E. McIntyre, co-author of the book, Daughters of the Game – The First Era of Girls High School Basketball, 1891-1942, is seeking information on the 1924-25 Ellendale High School girls’ basketball team, coached by Mr. Bergesen, who also was the school’s principal.

In particular, McIntyre is looking for details on a gold basketball charm presented to Bergesen by the 1924-25 Ellendale boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The charm has the initial “E” with red inside, with 24 on the left side and 25 on the right. Below it reads, “Coach Bergesen from Boys and Girls Squads.”

The charm is unique as it was made for the players to give to their coach. The stitching and etching are clear.

What is not clear is where did the players order this charm? Jostens in Owatonna does not believe that their company made such charms in that era. Are there individuals who may have ties to the team? 

Congrats! Girls’ hoop refs to induct Fran Mitilieri in first Hall of Fame class

Speaking of officiating – As Lauren Holtkamp preps for her second season as NBA ref, she talks to Daily News about her path to the pros, Chris Paul and more 

Also speaking of officiating: For my Ohio Buckeye fan, those articles I mentioned.

A heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to the two teams and the amazing fans in the Garden last night. You put on a helluva a show for Mr. Adam Silver aka Don’t Be A Wet Blanket, sir!

Also thrilled to see Suuuuuuuueeeeee celebrating great post play, T Edwards on the edge of her seat, and Val Ackerman one of the original “Originals” stalking the Garden steps. I even have a little love for the Dolson family – even though you were cheering for the Mystics. I see why she’s such a lovely woman…

The Lib and Mystics put on quite the show and, as many observers have noted, the electricity was back.With all my intellectual understanding of how important a NY win is to the league (no disrespect intended to the Mystics fans – they have been amazing and need to recover from some serious mis-management) I was taken aback by the surge of emotion that went through me when Stokes sealed the win with her block and Sugar super-sealed it with her free throws. It’s been a long time, kids.

By the way, FiveThirtyEight Sports – I know you say that “we don’t need no steeenkeen threes,” but I have to say that last night we sure enjoyed every single one Wiggins nailed.

Of course, as a reward, we get to play back-to-back games as we’ve been doubly evicted from the Garden.(First it was Madonna, then it was the Pope… I’m expecting Julio Iglesisas’ secret twin brother Jesus to announce a surprise concert.)

The conference finals open Wednesday in the East (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) when New York plays its second game at Madison Square Garden in as many days.

No. 1 New York (23-11 in the regular season) vs. No. 3 Indiana (20-14)

No offense to Washington, but from a league visibility standpoint, having New York in the Eastern Conference finals is a boost to the WNBA. But can the Liberty make it to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002? The team trying to stop them has more playoff experience as a franchise — 11 consecutive postseason appearances — and beat the Liberty four of five times during the regular season.

From Swish Appeal: Heavyweight battle: 5 major keys to Eastern Conference Finals

A LATE ADDITION from William: As Liberty Seek Title, Tina Charles Can Now Do More Than Dream

Charles played the full 40 minutes Tuesday and will, in all likelihood, have to play 40 more Wednesday.

No rest? No sweat.

“Being born and raised in New York, nothing is easy,” Charles said Tuesday. “Nothing really goes your way. So it doesn’t surprise me that we have to play tomorrow. It’s New York. Things like this happen. You just got to respond.”

For Charles, who was raised in Jamaica, Queens, and starred at Christ the King High School, Tuesday night brought back memories of the rocking Garden of her youth, cheering for women playing in a new women’s pro league that gave young players new horizons, new hope.

In Minnesota, the Lynx led wire-to-wire as Candace’s Superwoman cape wasn’t quite big enough. More of interest to me is the appearance of Sylvia Fowles. It looked like she was finally interested in taking an active role in this whole “pursuit of a championship” thang.

The Sparks, however, fastened their defense midway through the second half and pulled within one point early in the fourth quarter after a pair of Parker free throws.

But the experienced Lynx dug in, leaned on their veterans and rattled off a 9-0 run.

Augustus knocked down a 14-footer. Sylvia Fowles asserted herself in the paint and muscled through Sparks defenders for a couple of buckets. Superstar Maya Moore hit a step-back jumper and earned several trips to the free-throw line.

“We played on the edge every possession tonight,” Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “A couple lapses here and there, but that’s what it takes to win those games,”

In other news:

Say, what, Texas???!!!

It was a tense game between two third-grade basketball rivals, but it wouldn’t be until two months later that one team’s coach would feel the full effects.

Jessica Curs was coaching a team of 9-year-old girls in Burleson, Texas, when things got so heated that fans started heckling her, her husband and other coaches, she said. But it was when one particular fan, who turned out to be a plainclothes police officer, said he heard the coach fire back with her own comments that things escalated quickly.

Here. We. Go!