For the better part of the season, the Chicago Sky made it look easy. Elena Delle Donne and company dominated the court in most aspects, but competition from inside their conference has diminished the shiny team out of the Windy City. The mirage of a powerhouse has dropped like a stone in the East rankings in recent weeks.
The team now inching their way toward the top of the conference is the Indiana Fever. The Fever are generally known as the dark horse when it comes to the WNBA playoffs. Last year, the team finished in second place in the East right behind the Atlanta Dream.
When it comes down to the playoffs, Indiana has made the postseason each year since 2005. Chicago, on the other hand, made its first playoff appearance in 2013. They won their first conference championship the following year. Meanwhile, the Fever made the WNBA Finals in 2009 and won their first title in 2012.
Currently, the Fever sit at a record of 15-9 with a four-game winning streak to their name, and they sit two games behind the New York Liberty in the East. Recent wins over the Sparks, Dream, Phoenix Mercury and Washington Mystics demonstrate the range of power the Fever have when it comes to matchups around the WNBA.
Previously in this season, the Fever fell to teams in their conference more than the West. However, they’ve since found their stride since starting the season with a three-game losing streak.
Surges in the rankings are a result of power on the team, and the team isn’t short on that, with Tamika Catchings, Marissa Coleman and Briann January leading the way for Indiana.
Catchings leads the team in points per game with 12.9 and rebounds with 7.0 per game. She was nominated to play in the All-Star Game this year, which was her 10th appearance in 13 professional seasons. Catchings has spent her entire career with the Fever since being drafted in 2002 out of Tennessee, and the veteran’s style offers a guide to lead the team.
Coleman and January have both started every game this season for the Fever. Coleman posts around 12 points per game while January’s strong suit is distributing with 3.5 assists per game, the best mark on the team. Additionally, the three leaders of the Fever also average over 25 minutes of playing time each game.
Chicago holds its own pool of talent as well.
The first name that generally is associated with Chicago is Delle Donne. The Chicago star is noted for nearly every number on the WNBA leaderboard. Delle Donne leads the league in points per game with 24.2, and she’s hit 95.8 percent of her free throws this season.
Behind Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot and Cappie Pondexter are also key players for Chicago. Vandersloot has hit 92.3 percent of her free throws and leads the league in assists at 5.8. Pondexter is second on the team in points per game with 15.1.
But one of the biggest hurdles Chicago cannot overcome is Los Angeles. The Sky haven’t been able to pull off a win over the Sparks all season, a team that just recently made a grand surge in the rankings like Indiana. Before that, the Sparks looked like their playoff hopes were done for.
Meanwhile, the Fever have been rolling since a disappointing 18-point loss to the San Antonio Stars last month. Indiana has won seven of eight since that loss, with the only defeat coming at the hands of the Sky on Aug. 4.
The two teams don’t meet for the remainder of the regular season, although depending on how the next three weeks play out, the two have a shot to meet in the postseason depending on how the standings shake out.