MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sylvia Fowles and the Minnesota Lynx walked off the court after Game 2 of the WNBA Finals standing tall, responding with an aggression and desperation that was sorely needed after losing homecourt advantage in the opener.
Coach Stephanie White and the Indiana Fever finished the night crying foul after star Tamika Catchings was limited to 24 minutes of playing time.
Fowles had 21 points and nine rebounds and the Lynx evened the best-of-five WNBA Finals at one game apiece with a 77-71 victory over the Fever on Tuesday night.
Fowles, who turned 30 on Tuesday, made 10 of 13 shots. Maya Moore added 19 points and eight boards for the Lynx, who are looking for their third championship in the last five years.
“I think we learned some things and we showed some grit,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Indiana was going for that knockout with the second win on the road. I appreciated our resilience.”
Briann January scored 17 points and Catchings had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists while struggling through foul trouble for the Fever, who nearly won their second straight game on the road to open this rematch of the 2012 series won by Indiana.
“This game was a bloodbath,” White said. “I’ve never seen a player, of Tamika Catchings’ caliber get so disrespected in my life. Never. And to me that’s a travesty. That’s a travesty. “
Reeve spent the day between Games 1 and 2 publicly chiding the officials for allowing Indiana’s defenders to get so physical with guard Lindsay Whalen. She wouldn’t comment on if she received a fine for her remarks, but the rookie coach White said Reeve the veteran showed her how to control the narrative.
Catchings had two fouls in the first 5:30 of the game and picked up her fifth with 4:13 to play in the third quarter and the Fever up by eight. When she went to the bench, the Lynx pounced.
Just 2 for 7 in the first 25 minutes of the game, Moore scored six points in under two minutes, assisted on two more buckets and grabbed a key rebound off of a missed free throw to spark a 17-5 run that closed the third quarter and gave the Lynx a 63-59 lead.
“First and foremost, I learned a valuable lesson today,” White fumed. “I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials. Who would have known that.”
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Reeve said, “I cannot comment on the officiating.”
Moore scored eight of Minnesota’s 14 points in the fourth quarter, two on technical fouls given to Shenise Johnson and Marissa Coleman that helped the Lynx hold off the Fever.
“We just lost focus,” Catchings said. “As a team we lost our poise, we lost our composure. We’re too good for that. We’re too good of a team to let things like that deter us in what we’re trying to do, trying to accomplish.”
Game 3 is Friday night in Indianapolis.
“It’s going to be a dogfight, just like it has been these first two games,” Moore said. “It’s set up to be a very entertaining Game 3. Both teams are very hungry.”
Seimone Augustus scored 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting and the Lynx outscored the Fever 21-8 on second-chance points after losing that category 22-12 in the opener.
While the rest of her team struggled through the first 24 minutes, Fowles stood tall in the paint. She made nine of her first 11 shots and held down the fort before Moore got going.
“Sylvia’s a beast,” White said. “She’s one of those players ... that the only person who limits her is herself. With that body, with that athleticism, with how quickly she gets up in the air, she should dominate.”
Catchings was playing in her 64th career playoff game, tying Taj McWilliams-Franklin for most in WNBA history.
Despite the loss, the Fever return home for Games 3 and 4 with the chance to close out the series without having to come back to Minnesota.
“I’m very frustrated with how the game went, but more so because I wasn’t on the court,” Catchings said. “As a great player, you should never be sitting on the bench. You should never put your team in a situation where they have to play without you. So I’m frustrated and you better believe I’ll be ready.”