Katie Douglas' revitalized shooting touch helped the Indiana Fever clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The All-Star scored 21 points to help the Indiana Fever beat the Washington Mystics 87-69 on Wednesday night. It was her highest scoring game since July 13.
"I'm just staying aggressive," she said. "I'm trying to get myself ready for the playoffs and not taking a back seat."
Douglas' effort followed her 17-point outing in a win over Chicago on Sunday. Getting her into an offensive rhythm has been a focus for the Fever.
"We're running a lot of things for me with the ball in my hands as either a scorer or distributor, reading the 'D,"' she said. "I'm trying to mix it up because the 'D' is going to close out extremely hard around the 3-point line."
Connecticut can match Indiana's record, but the Fever have the tiebreaker because of a 3-2 advantage in the head-to-head matchup this season.
The last time Indiana had the top record in the East, the Fever reached the 2009 WNBA finals. Indiana is one win short of tying the franchise record for victories in a season with two games remaining.
Tamika Catchings had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Tammy Sutton-Brown added a season-high 15 points for the Fever (21-11).
Crystal Langhorne had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Washington (6-27), which has lost 12 of 13.
"We have to put two halves together," Washington center DeMya Walker said. "This time, we fought hard at the end, but at the end of the day we have to finish."
Indiana shot 46 percent from the field and scored 24 points off 18 Washington turnovers.
The Fever squandered a 13-point lead in the first half, and Washington led 37-36 at the break.
"It wasn't (easy), and we knew it wouldn't be," Catchings said. "I think we started the game out really well and then lost our focus a little bit, so it's definitely something that we have to continue to play off of."
The Fever came out hot in the second half. Four different players scored during a 9-0 run that gave Indiana a 45-37 lead and forced a Washington timeout.
The Fever increased their lead to 51-40 on a three-point play by Catchings. Indiana stretched the lead to 59-44, but Washington scored seven points in less than a minute to force an Indiana timeout.
Langhorne made a layup and was fouled by Catchings as time expired in the third quarter. The officials checked to see if she got the shot off before the end of the quarter and decided that she didn't. They said the foul came before the quarter ended, and Langhorne made the second of two free throws to cut Indiana's lead to 64-58 at the end of the period.
Indiana led by three when Washington's Marissa Coleman missed a 3-pointer. The Fever rebounded and Erin Phillips made a 3-pointer at the other end to push Indiana's lead to six points. Indiana went up double digits again on a pullup jumper by Phillips from near the free-throw line, and the Fever remained in control the rest of the way.
"I felt like in the second half, I thought you saw a really tough Fever team say, 'hey wait a minute, we're going to win this ball game,' and we took it up another notch and really turned it on in the second half," Indiana coach Lin Dunn said.
Now, Indiana has a chance to rest players if necessary. Phillips sprained her left ankle when she stepped on Langhorne's foot. She will not play at New York and may not play Sunday against Atlanta as a precautionary measure.
The Fever want to enter the playoffs the right way. Their final two regular-season games are against New York and Atlanta, both possible playoff opponents.
"We definitely want to be at our top game, rolling, in a good rhythm and being sharp," Douglas said. "Standing-wise, they're not going to affect us, but we can use these two games to our advantage and get better and get ready for the playoffs."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times