Fever top Silver Stars to open WNBA title defense
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Lin Dunn was expecting the San Antonio Silver Stars to have a thunderous start in their home opener and the Indiana Fever got exactly that in the first quarter.
Dunn also expected her team to weather the storm, and the Indiana coach was right about that, too.
Tamika Catchings and Shavonte Zellous each scored 19 points and the Fever opened defense of their WNBA title with a resounding 79-64 victory over the depleted San Antonio Silver Stars on Friday night.
Indiana outscored San Antonio 45-29 in the second half, turning a one-point deficit into the Fever’s third straight win on opening night.
“We figured that San Antonio would start off like gangbusters,” Dunn said. “It’s opening night. There is a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and they did. I think they knocked down about five or six shots in a row and they were hitting their 3s. I just think we did a good job not panicking (and) not overreacting, just weathering that storm. Everything kind of settled down and we were able to chip back into the game.”
Katie Douglas added 18 points and Erlana Larkins had eight points and 12 rebounds for Indiana.
Shenise Johnson scored 14 points and Shameka Christon added 10 for San Antonio, which lost its season opener for the first time since 2010. No other Silver Stars player scored more than nine points.
San Antonio was without Becky Hammon and Sophia Young.
Hammon is expected to miss a month after breaking her right middle finger. She sat on the bench with a cast covering her hand and extending down to her wrist. Young is expected to miss the season after suffering a torn ACL while playing overseas.
After scoring the game’s first 10 points, the Silver Stars struggled offensively without their top two scorers from last season.
“I think we’re still finding our identity,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we know who we are yet. Traditionally, we are a defensive team, and we didn’t showcase that tonight. But, I can promise you in the games to come we’re going to be a better defensive team.”
San Antonio point guard Danielle Robinson took an early leading role, scoring three points and picking up two assists in the 10-0 run.
The Silver Stars collected five assists on their eight baskets in the first quarter.
Indiana started making the extra pass to find open shooters beginning in the second quarter.
“I think it was about us executing, taking our time, and seeing the reads,” Douglas said. “This game is about reads and mismatches. I think we played smarter, and we played simpler in the second half. We were able to make that read and we wanted to be in attack mode.”
The Fever captured their first lead with 3 minutes left in the first half, using a 13-2 run to take a 32-30 lead. San Antonio regained the lead on Jia Perkins’ 3-pointer at the close of the first half, but the advantage didn’t hold up.
Catchings’ open layup gave the Fever a 51-43 lead, resulting in a series of puzzled looks by the Silver Stars defenders over the missed assignment and leading to a timeout by San Antonio coach Dan Hughes.
“We gave up too many layups,” Hughes said. “I think points in the paint were a big story of the game. A lot of it was dribble penetration. We just didn’t do a good job of containing the basketball.”
Indiana outscored San Antonio 46-16 in the paint.
San Antonio took only 10 shots in the first 9 minutes of the third quarter and shot 37 percent from the field in the second half.
“I thought our defense in the second half was much stronger,” Dunn said. “We know their sets, they know our sets. I just thought we defended at a higher level. We got in a few passing lanes, disrupted a few shots; things didn’t come easy (for San Antonio). I think we were able to change the momentum in our favor through our defense.”
Notes: The Silver Stars observed a moment of silence in honor of the Oklahoma residents who were killed Monday by a series of deadly tornadoes. . The Fever are 10-4 overall in season openers. . Indiana took a 13-12 advantage in the overall series with Silver Stars franchise, including a 13-7 record since the team moved to San Antonio from Utah. . Former NBA referee Tommy Nunez was part of the three-person officiating crew for Friday’s game. Nunez was fired by the NBA in October 2012 after officiating more than 200 games for the league. . Young addressed the crowd before the game, thanking the fans for their previous support and urging them to continue to do so throughout this, their 11th season in San Antonio.