It is a testament to Tamika Catchings, Lin Dunn and the rest of the Indiana Fever franchise that the phrase "It could be their year" actually applies every year.
The Fever are perhaps the best WNBA franchise over the past five seasons that has not been rewarded with a league title. And with Minnesota moving into position as the title favorite and hard-charging Connecticut and Atlanta finishing strong in the East, the Fever -- who will be making their seventh straight playoff appearance -- are probably more contenders than favorites once again.
What the Fever lack at this moment is momentum. Sunday's win over Chicago snapped a three-game losing streak, and Connecticut is lurking, hoping to steal first place in the final week of the season. Only a half-game separates the two teams with three games to go.
"We have been a first-place team, but Connecticut is on a run here," Dunn, the Fever's head coach, told the Indianapolis Star following Sunday's game. "We have a lot of teams playing really well, so we really needed to win this game tonight, plus we were coming off some tough losses."
Catchings, the Indiana star who is one of the WNBA's most underappreciated players -- not to mention the only one in league history with 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists -- wants to lead her team into the postseason on a high note.
"We don't want to focus on where you stand in the standings," Catchings told the Star. "At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter when you get to the playoffs. It's a matter of going into the playoffs with the right mentality."
Seven of the WNBA's eight playoff teams are set, and the San Antonio Silver Stars are this-close. The Stars have a two-game lead over fifth-place Los Angeles with three games to go. Now it's all about jockeying for position.
In the West, Minnesota will be the No. 1 team and will have home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
But Seattle leads Phoenix by only a half-game for the No. 2 spot and home-court advantage in a short first-round matchup. It could be decided when the two teams play in Seattle on Friday night.
In the East, the No. 1 seed is still up for grabs with a half-game separating Indiana and Connecticut. New York and Atlanta are tied in the battle to determine the third and fourth spots.
Game of the early week
There's a potential playoff preview Tuesday between Connecticut and Atlanta on the Dream's home court. The Sun have a 2-1 lead in the season series thus far.
Tulsa needs another
The Shock will close the book on the 2011 season this week, hoping to pick up their fourth win and avoid matching the 1998 Washington Mystics for the fewest victories in league history. The Mystics played a 30-game schedule that year; the worst-ever record in a 34-game schedule is 4-30 by the 2008 Atlanta Dream.
"We admit it didn't work," Tulsa team president Steve Swetoha told the New York Times, talking about the team's struggles since moving from Detroit in 2009.