INDIANAPOLIS -- Think Erlana Larkins can play in the WNBA?
The 6'1" center, who was out of the league for two years, had 16 points and 20 rebounds Tuesday night, powering the Indiana Fever over the Atlanta Dream 75-64 in the deciding Game 3 of an Eastern Conference playoff series at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Fever, who are in the East finals for a fifth time in eight years, will play Game 1 of the next series Friday at Connecticut. Atlanta had won the East in each of the past two years.
The Fever, ahead 65-59 in the fourth quarter, went on a 10-0 run to expand the margin to 16 and secure victory.
Katie Douglas led the Fever with 24 points. Tamika Catchings and Briann January matched Larkins' 16 points.
Lindsey Harding scored 17 and league leader Angela McCoughtry 16 for Atlanta.
Larkin's rebounds are second in WNBA playoff history only to Detroit's Cheryl Ford, who had 23 against Connecticut in 2006. Catchings had 20 in an overtime loss at Connecticut in 2007.
The Fever, customarily a poor rebounding team, hammered the Dream 46-25 on the boards. The chippy nature of the fourth quarter was characterized by a technical foul against McCoughtry, who knocked the ball out of January's hands when play was halted by a foul.
McCoughtry, who was suspended by the Dream earlier this season, went to the bench briefly.
The Fever claimed leads of seven points during the third quarter but couldn't maintain them. Catchings twice had leave for the bench to have a bleeding cut from her chain repaired.
McCoughtry sank a 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key just before the half to tie the score at 39.
Douglas, who scored 16 points in the first two games of the series, equaled that total in the first half of this one. Larkins had 10 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.
The Fever led by as many as 10 points in first quarter but saw that margin vanish for multiple reasons:
-- McCoughtry scored 10 points in the second quarter.
-- Catchings had five turnovers in the half. She shot 1-of-6, dropping her shooting to a cumulative 4-of-28 in the series, with the exception of Game 2's fourth quarter.
-- The Fever were 7-of-12 on free throws, including four successive misses by Tammy Sutton-Brown.
-- January picked up her third foul with 3:32 left in the second quarter and sat out the rest of the half.
(The Indianapolis Star)