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updated: 9/4/2011 9:36 PM

Chicago Sky can't fight off Indiana Fever

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  • The Fever's Tamika Catchings, left, battles the Sky's Sylvia Fowles for a rebound in the third quarter Sunday at the Allstate Arena.

    The Fever's Tamika Catchings, left, battles the Sky's Sylvia Fowles for a rebound in the third quarter Sunday at the Allstate Arena.
    Associated Press


Technically, Sunday's Sky game was a moot point.

Before it even started.

Prior to tip-off against the visiting Indiana Fever, Sky players and coaches learned that Atlanta, the team they were so desperately chasing in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, had just gotten a big win over Tulsa.

That gave Atlanta the berth and mathematically eliminated the Sky, which was trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the franchise's six-year history.

"It wasn't (easy hearing that) at all," Sky forward Tamera Young said. "But we still wanted to go out and play the game hard. Just because we got knocked out of the playoffs doesn't mean that we were going to give up."

Far from it.

Indiana got an 88-80 victory over the Sky, but it didn't come without a fight.

In a moment in which it would have been easy to pout and cry "Woe is us," the Sky brought the kind of fight and heart that a team still in the hunt for a playoff berth would.

The problem was, the first-place Fever had as much to play for as the Sky, which had pride and 6,199 fans in mind on Fan Appreciation Day at Allstate Arena.

The Fever, which had lost its previous three games, was angling to stay in front of a surging Connecticut Sun team for first place in the Eastern Conference and homecourt advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Down the stretch, the Fever played like a first-place team on a mission, forcing the Sky into turnovers while also hitting key free throws.

Indiana, which got 17 points from former Stevenson High School star Tamika Catchings and 17 from Katie Douglas, is now 20-11 on the season with three games remaining. The Sky, led by Epiphanny Prince's 21 points and 6 assists, moves to 14-17 with its final three games on the road out West.

"We've had our ups and downs all season and a lot of times we just had a tough time getting in a groove, in a flow," said Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. "Tonight was one of those games.

"I felt like we fought. But it's the minor things that we've been struggling with all season long like turnovers and second-chance points that made the difference."

The game was tied at 76-76 with 6:30 left, but the Sky committed 7 turnovers over the next five minutes to allow Indiana to start pulling away.

The Fever also hit 6 of 8 free throws in the waning minutes to cinch it.

"We couldn't afford to lose four games in a row," Catchings said. "We're going into the playoffs and we wanted to get that playoff mentality going.

"The Sky came out tonight with a great effort. They played really well and made it tough. The intensity (of the fourth quarter) went up a few notches for both teams."

The Sky, which also got double figures from Young (12 points), finished with 17 turnovers, and Indiana scored 19 points off of those turnovers.

For Indiana, guard Erin Phillips added 16 points and center Jessica Davenport finished with 14 points.

• Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, also provides color commentary for Chicago Sky broadcasts.