Defense will determine East semifinal
Best-of-three series opens in Indiana on Friday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
The Dream, who have been to consecutive WNBA Finals but have no title to show for it, ride a four-game win streak (and seven wins in nine games) into the playoffs. Atlanta seems to have found its groove in the final weeks of the regular season despite a serious spate of drama in August, when coach Marynell Meadors was dismissed and star Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, was briefly suspended.
There's been no such excitement in Indiana, where the veteran Fever -- led by Tamika Catchings -- make their eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs. The steady Fever lost three in a row before winning consecutive games to close the regular season and match the franchise record for regular-season victories with 22.
The biggest concern for Indiana is the health of two key backcourt players -- Shavonte Zellous and Briann January -- who suffered head injuries in a Sept. 17 game and haven't played since.
The Fever have the home-court advantage in this series and have played well at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season with a 12-4 mark.
Key to the series
The play of Sancho Lyttle and Lindsey Harding: If these two players -- who have been consistent and steady through a tumultuous year -- play big, the Dream will be a serious threat to return to the Finals.
Indiana will win if Zellous and January are healthy and ready to run the backcourt. Their absence would be a huge blow.
Atlanta will win if it can play defense. The Dream have given up more than 80 points only twice since September began -- and they lost both games.
Michelle Smith: Dream in three games. Despite all the drama in Atlanta this year, the Dream seem to know how to win in the postseason.
Mechelle Voepel: Fever in three games. The rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals should go to the Fever if they are healthy, but the series likely will be very close and decided by whether Indiana plays defensively as well as it hopes.
PLAYOFF SCHEDULE: (2) FEVER VS. (3) DREAM
|Friday, Sept. 28||Game 1: Atlanta at Indiana
||7 p.m. (ESPN2)|
|Sunday, Sept. 30||Game 2: Indiana at Atlanta
||4 p.m. (ESPN2)|
|Tuesday, Oct. 2||Game 3*: Atlanta at Indiana
|* If necessary|
|May 19||At Indiana 92, Atlanta 84||Indiana put five in double figures and hit 12 of 21 3-pointers and 20 of 24 free throws|
|May 27||Indiana 78, at Atlanta 62||Tamika Catchings tallied 25 points and 12 rebounds, scoring 17 points in the third quarter|
|June 26||At Atlanta 70, Indiana 58||The Dream won consecutive games for the first time this season|
|Aug. 18||At Indiana 86, Atlanta 72||Katie Douglas scored 29 points, hitting 7 of 9 3-point attempts|
|Sept. 5||At Atlanta 71, Indiana 64||Lindsey Harding scored 12 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Dream rallied to win|
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