The Indiana Fever never really had a fair shot to defend their WNBA title this season. Four-time All-WNBA selection Katie Douglas played just two games before going out with a back injury and missing most of the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
Center Jessica Davenport never played a game due to a left tibia stress fracture. Three-point sharpshooter Jeanette Pohlen missed the first 18 games recovering from a torn left ACL suffered in the playoffs last year.
Tamika Catchings, Erin Phillips and Briann January were also among nine Fever players who missed more than 100 games due to injury.
"Hopefully this time next year we'll be healthy, we'll be deeper and we can come back and chase that championship again," said Fever head coach Lin Dunn after a 67-53 loss to the Atlanta Dream ended the Fever season Sunday. "We just want to reload our gun and have a few more bullets."
The Fever qualified for the playoffs despite a losing record and surprised the top-seeded Chicago Sky in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Fever swept the Sky in two blowout wins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the 6th time in the last 9 years. Atlanta then swept the Fever in two games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Dream return to the WNBA Finals for the 3rd time in the past five seasons, still looking for a first championship.
"I am proud of my team," said Fever Forward Tamika Catchings, who led Indiana with 24 points Sunday. "We faced a lot of adversity and we overcame a lot to be here. I am not really disappointed in the loss. I would love to go to the Finals. We played hard. We gave it everything we had."
Given the injury obstacles, lack of depth and roster changes, Dunn may have done her best coaching job in her 10th season as coach of the Fever.
"I will personally take with me the tremendous amount of character that this team showed through adversity," said Dunn. "There was a time when we were 1-7, and we battled and battled and battled. For us to get this close to the Finals, I think is a tremendous accomplishment."
"The way we started and with all the adversity we faced all season long, it never really felt like we were going for back-to-back championships," said Catchings. "It felt like we were the underdog, always trying to dig our way up, trying to get out."
Uncertainty surrounds the future of the 34-year-old Douglas, an Indianapolis native (Perry Meridian High School) who came back late in the season only to aggravate her back problem.
"You've got back injuries, it's just so unknown," said Dunn. "Is it going to recover with therapy? Is it going to need surgery? We don't have any idea."