PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 23: Cappie Pondexter #23 of the New York Liberty puts up a shot against the Phoenix Mercury during the WNBA game at US Airways Center on August 23, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Dream overcame the loss of center Erika De Souza capturing a 94-77 victory over the Indiana Fever to force a decisive Game 3 in the 2011 WNBA Eastern Conference Finals. Atlanta will travel to Indiana for the game on Tuesday without De Souza who left the team to try and help the Brazilian National team qualify for the Olympics. However, Indiana could also be missing a key piece after 2011 MVP Tamika Catchings suffered a foot injury during the second half of Sunday's game.
Catchings was injured after she appeared to step on Dream center Allison Bales' foot. She briefly got up but quickly returned to the floor and had to be carried off. It was originally feared that it could be an Achilles injury but Fever coach Lin Dunn quieted that rumor after the game.
``The good news is it's not her Achilles','' said Indiana coach Lin Dunn, who said she would know more about Catchings' status on Monday.
When asked about Catching's injury, Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said that her team would prepare for Game 3 with the assumption that Catchings would be in the lineup.
Atlanta brought a lot of energy to Sunday's game and the insertion of Iziane Castro Marques into the starting lineup seemed to further energize the Dream defensively and on the break. During the first half, Atlanta's defense was able to force Indiana into some careless turnovers which led to easy opportunities in transition. Angel McCoughtry scored 20 of her 27 points in the first half and helped get Atlanta going early. However, thanks to some good shooting by the Fever and Katie Douglas in particular, Atlanta only led 55-51 at the half.
The Fever closed the lead to within two points in the second half before a 7-0 run by Atlanta's Iziane Castro Marques put Atlanta back comfortably ahead. Atlanta's defense seemed to wear down Indiana's offense in the second half as Lin Dunn tried mixing and matching players to find the right combination. The Fever shot just over 50 percent from the field in the first half but saw that number fall all the way to 39 percent for the game. After allowing 51 points in the first half, the Dream's defense only gave up 26 combined over the final two quarters of the game.
Rebounding was virtually even which can't be described as a win for Indiana when you consider that Atlanta went with a small lineup that had Sancho Lyttle playing center and Angel McCoughtry at the power forward. Indiana wasn't able to take advantage of the smaller lineup on the offensive end thanks to some pretty solid rotations from the Atlanta defense and had a lot of trouble staying in front of McCoughtry and Castro Marques on the defensive end of the floor.
After the game, coach Meadors talked about losing Erika De Souza and said that she had been talking with the Brazilian National team since January. She said that the talks with Brazil contained a "lot of threats" from the National team and said if De Souza had decided not to leave it would have likely cost her the opportunity to play in the Olympics.