There is something about the way Lin Dunn delivers a message, the way her southern cadence focuses you, that can even make a challenge sound sweet.
Dunn, the longtime coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, looked at the statistical evidence of her team’s 76-64 loss to the Connecticut Sun Friday and promised that it soon would change when Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals is played Monday in Indianapolis (ESPN2, 8 p.m.)
“If they [the Sun] win the boards, they’re probably going to win the ballgame,” Dunn said. “We were even at half, and then they come out on top and they got 15 second-chance points.
“So, we’re going to take five of those second-chance points, we’re going to hit four or five more of our shots, we’re going to get to the free throw line two or three more times, and we’re going to win the second game.
“That’s how we’re going to do it.”
Rather, that’s how the Fever must do it to avoid elimination and preserve their chance to win the series Thursday back at the casino.
The Sun, which has won all three of their post season games, fell behind 22-14 in the first quarter on the strength of four Fever threes.
Then the texture of the game changed.
“A lot of things were going wrong,” Sun guard Kara Lawson said. “It’s hard to say all of them. We weren’t executing offensively. We weren’t focused on the defensive end. We were giving them clean looks at the basket. At this level, you cannot give a professional player an open look, no matter who it is. We just had to regroup.”
The Sun took the lead, 30-29, in the final minute of the half and walked into the locker room tied at 30.
“We talked about locking up defensively in the half-court set and then trying to rebound and run,” Lawson added. “At times it got down to a slow-and-crawl kind of game. It was 30-30 at halftime, but I thought we did look in the second half to push up the tempo. When we started to attack by driving, that freed up a lot of things for us.”
And the Sun made a subtle change that freed the best player in the league to do what she does best.
“We tried to get Tina [Charles] more on the move as the game went on, or put her in a position where she might not be shooting but could get an offensive rebound,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said.
“Each round you go, the pressure steps up and you have to adjust to the other team. The higher pressure the game, the more physical it is.”
To help matters, the Fever went cold. After making 7 of their first 12 shots, they ended the game by missing 19 of their last 24. Tamika Catchings, the 2011 MVP, gifted and resourceful, made her first shot and then missed her next 11.
“We are going to watch this game and learn from it,” Indiana guard Erin Phillips said. “We lost the rebounding competition [30-25] so that will be a key factor and hitting those extra shots.
“We looked really good at times, but they just got the momentum going and they were very hard to beat. It is going to be another tough game come Monday.”
The Sun has one other thing to consider. Their worst game of the season was June 21 at Indiana, a 95-61 loss.
“They hit 15 threes in the game,” Lawson said. “We were down something like 15-0 in three minutes. They had a ton of energy and forced a lot of turnovers and we didn’t handle it very well. We are mindful of that. We expect that same type of performance. We’re going to have to find a way to counteract the type of energy that they are going to bring.
“This game does nothing to faze them. They are sitting in that locker room, and they might be disappointed in the missed opportunity. This does nothing to hurt their belief in that they feel like they can still win. We haven’t really done anything except win the first game, and the close-out game against a team like that is the hardest one to win”