Fever, Lynx take game one

Eastern Conference semifinal game one:

Fever 82, Atlanta 74

It was the Tangela Smith show for a while, but the league MVP Tamika Catchings made a crucial, outrageous basket late in the fourth quarter that fueled her team the rest of the way to the win. Check this part of the story:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings finished her special day the right way.

After being announced as the league’s most valuable player earlier Thursday, she had 12 points and 13 rebounds to help the Indiana Fever defeat the Atlanta Dream 82-74 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Catchings sealed the win with one of her signature late-game gems. She stole the ball from Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, then drove more than half the length of the court, spun through contact and made a behind-the-head layup off the backboard that gave the Fever a 74-66 lead.

“I was just trying to drive the basket and get to the line,” Catchings said. “I was going in there with the intention of attacking Sancho (Lyttle) and get to the line.”

It was the kind of play that has earned Catchings a rare level of respect from her peers.

“She’s just a hustle player, she just outworks everybody,” Tangela Smith, who led Indiana with 25 points, said. “We needed that stop at that time. That’s what Catch does.”

That’s what struck me today is the way so many other players were congratulating Catchings, saying her MVP title was a long time coming, and talking about how hard she works. She definitely showed that in tonight’s game, as she bounced back from hard foul after hard foul.

Western Conference semifinal game one:

Lynx 95, Phoenix 67

In Minneapolis, the Lynx got off to a strong start and never looked back. The Mercury made a run in the second quarter, but Minnesota came out after halftime with guns blazing. It turned into a butt-whoopin, with the depth of the Lynx showing up in the box score.

Nice big break til Sunday.