Indiana Fever's perimeter play paves way to Game 1 win on the road

Fever win Game 1 (0:52)

Briann January has 19 points and six assists as the Fever steals home-court advantage in the WNBA Finals with a 75-69 victory over the Lynx. (0:52)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Indiana's Marissa Coleman is never supposed to pass up an open 3-pointer.

"I get yelled at when I do that," Coleman said. "Well, in a good way, like, 'Shoot the ball!'"

Sunday in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals at Target Center, Coleman and the rest of the Fever's perimeter players did not hesitate to take advantage of their offensive opportunities, and as a result, took control of what turned into a 75-69 victory against Minnesota.

And while all of us in the media can't quite shut up about how much this postseason is reminding us of 2012, when Indiana won the title over the Lynx, the Fever aren't spending any time thinking about that.

"There are parallels, of course," said point guard Briann January, who led Indiana with 19 points and six assists. "But this is a different team and it's a different feel this time around. The growth that everyone's had throughout this season has been big, and it's going to take all of us to try to win this championship."

Sunday, the Fever had five players score in double figures, four of them being guards or, in Coleman's case, a guard/forward. Coleman had 16 points, and Shenise Johnson and Shavonte Zellous had 10 each.

Tamika Catchings (12 points) was the other Indiana player in double figures. She and center Erlana Larkins were a combined 4-of-16 from the field, as Minnesota did a pretty good job of neutralizing that aspect of Indiana's offense. But the Fever's perimeter was so dynamic; it was too much for the Lynx to stop.

"We've talked about Briann January's pace -- she's just playing with a different poise," Indiana coach Stephanie White said. "She's reading her options and knowing when to take her shot, when to attack the rim and when to find her teammates. It's been a growth process.

"Shenise Johnson, this is the first time she's been in an environment like this. She looked a little hesitant at first, but she found her groove and rhythm. Z has been here before, so she knows what it takes. She didn't have a great game offensively, but she made them when it counted. And with Marissa and her ability to stretch the defense ... she hit a critical 3-point shot for us and had a critical defensive play at the end of the game."

Coleman's trey that White referenced came just after the Lynx had taken their only lead of the second half, 61-60 with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game. Coleman airballed a 23-footer, but January snared the rebound and tossed it right back to her. This time, from the same spot, Coleman didn't miss. It was her second 3-pointer of the game -- her 16th of this postseason -- and the Fever didn't surrender the lead again.

Coleman won an NCAA title with Maryland as a freshman in 2006. She's in her sixth season in the WNBA and second in Indiana. She spent her first three WNBA seasons in Washington, then the next two in Los Angeles. Especially in her time with the Sparks, she seemed to be drifting away from her strength behind the arc in part because her playing time was more limited.

With the Fever, she's back to being the high-stakes shooter she has the ability to be. Coleman has made a combined 85 3-pointers over the past two regular seasons.

"She's in a system and with a franchise that believes in her," White said of Coleman, "that wants to utilize her in ways that make her successful."

Before Sunday's game -- her first appearance in the WNBA Finals -- started, Coleman took time to look around.

"When we lined up for the national anthem, and then the Lynx got their crowd worked up, I got goose bumps just being in this situation," Coleman said. "I just kind of took it all in there."

Catchings, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum in regard to WNBA Finals experience -- this was her 10th game -- praised her entire team for displaying the unity that has gotten the Fever this far.

"When one player's not doing well, everybody else steps up," Catchings said. "[Rebekkah] Brunson was a big test for me today in getting to the boards. That takes a lot of energy out of you. But everybody has a job on this team, and the feeling in the locker room was more, 'What do I need to do?'

"I believe that no matter whether I'm scoring or not, I can make a difference in the game. One thing that will never go away is my heart."

The passion with which the Fever played was undeniable, but this was also just a straightforward win on execution for Indiana. Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve talked before the game about how difficult it was to defend the Fever, because they can shoot the 3-pointer well, but aren't completely reliant on it, either. Just the 3-point threats that the Fever can put on the floor at the same time can leave the defense "strung out," as Reeve said.

So the Lynx definitely knew what was coming from the Fever but weren't able to keep it from happening.

And even when January had to leave the game after picking up her sixth foul -- and a technical -- with 1:12 left, she was confident the Fever would win.

"I just wanted to stay engaged on the bench, because that's what our bench has done the entire season," January said. "We feel that energy when we're on the floor, and I wanted to give it to my team when I was on the bench. I knew that group that was on the court knew how to close it out."