Catchings' fundamentals propel Fever

There are so many things you can point to that have made Indiana's Tamika Catchings such a great player for so long. But two of the so-called "fundamentals" of basketball have been huge keys to Catchings' success and have frustrated the heck out of her opponents.

Catchings is a very good free throw shooter during the regular season, and she has been even a little bit better during the playoffs. Also, she's a rebounder who just never quits.

For a player who is typically at her best when aggressively going to the rim, the ability to come up big at the line is such a valuable skill. That proved to be the case once again Thursday as the WNBA playoffs got under way with Indiana's 78-73 victory over Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Indianapolis.

Catchings didn't have a great game shooting from the field, going 4 of 15. But at the line, Catchings was 14 of 14. It added up to 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven steals.

Catchings' career free throw average during the regular season is 83.7 percent. And in the playoffs, it's now at 85.4 after her 100-percent performance Thursday. Catchings also became the all-time leader in rebounds during the WNBA playoffs; she now has 480 in 52 postseason games. The previous record was 471 by Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie.

It was just another typical Catchings' performance at the time of the year when it counts the most.

Thursday, the Fever and the Minnesota Lynx -- who combined have won the last three WNBA titles -- started the postseason with victories, but both had to sweat it out in the closing minutes of their respective games. The Lynx celebrated Maya Moore's season MVP award with an 88-84 win over never-say-die San Antonio in Minneapolis.

No doubt, the 25-year-old Moore is the WNBA's biggest star who's still just entering her peak years right now. And she delighted the Target Center crowd with some signature Maya moments Thursday as she scored 26 points.

But the veteran Catchings, who turned 35 last month, is still a force to be reckoned with. She was the league's MVP in 2011, and then led the Fever to the WNBA title in 2012.

Last year, the Fever fell in the Eastern Conference finals to Atlanta. And Indiana had to play through May and June this year without Catchings, who was dealing with back issues.

But from the moment Catchings returned to the court on July 5, the Fever were a different team. As always, she makes every other Fever player's job easier.

And when it comes to the postseason, Catchings almost always somehow finds another gear. Indiana needed that in Game 1, and will again as the Fever hope to close out the series Saturday in Washington.