Sparks spoil Catchings’ emotional night, beat Fever
INDIANAPOLIS — Tamika Catchings was known as a hard worker during her playing career. But as hard as she worked in 16 seasons for the Indiana Fever, she had a tough time keeping up with her dad on Saturday night.
Former NBA player Harvey Catchings helped his daughter raise a banner with her No. 24 jersey to the rafters at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the highlight for Indiana in an 84-73 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
“It’s just a blur. My dad was pulling so fast I was just trying to keep up,” Catchings said after the halftime ceremony. “In that moment, literally, every tug was like every year — 2001, getting drafted all the way to 2017. It was like a flash. Seeing my teammates over there, even the ones I didn’t play with, I feel like I played with them as much as I’m around. Really, replaying the years, that’s a flash.”
After being drafted third overall out of Tennessee, where she was a four-time All-American, in 2001, Catchings sat out with an injury before being named the Rookie of the Year in 2002. By the time she retired after last season, Catchings was the all-time leading rebounder in the WNBA and was No. 2 (now third) in career scoring. She is also on top of the steals and free throw lists.
Catchings was the 2011 MVP and was the 2012 Finals MVP when the Fever won their only title. She was a five-time Defensive Player of the Year and 10-time All-Star as well as winning four Olympic Gold Medals. Now she is Director of Player Programs and Franchise Development for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
She credited the fans for her long stay with the Fever.
“When you become so involved in your community, it makes it hard to leave,” she said. “It’s like a relationship … I love what the fans bring.”
Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 points and Los Angeles had a 19-0 run in the third quarter.
Los Angeles used a 21-5 run to close the first half to take a 46-40 lead then put a damper on the halftime ceremony by scoring the first 19 points of the third quarter to open a 25-point lead.
Ogwumike had seven points and Canadace Parker, who had 18 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, added six points in the run that propelled the defending champions to their fifth straight win.
Chelsea Gray added 17 points for Los Angeles (9-3). Parker also had seven assists, three steals and two blocks and the Sparks shot 53 percent and went 8 of 17 from 3-point range.
Candice Dupree had 13 points, 10 in the first quarter when Indiana (6-7) took a 23-20 lead. Briann January and Shenise Johnson had 13 points but the Fever couldn’t get closer than 11 after L.A.’s run despite closing the third quarter with 12 straight points and a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter.
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