MINNEAPOLIS -- Was it a calculated move by Stephanie White? The Indiana coach strode into the press room following Indiana's 77-71 loss to Minnesota in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals and blasted the officiating that she believes "absolutely" cost her team a chance to go up 2-0 in the series.
"I'm not seasoned enough to be calculating," White said later.
Maybe we can agree to disagree about that.
White's very pointed statements -- including calling the game a "bloodbath" and saying that Tamika Catchings was "disrespected" by the foul calls that limited her playing time to 24 minutes -- will undoubtedly earn her a fine from the league. And they might be the emotional impetus that her Fever need to go home to Indianapolis and set a path for another WNBA championship. The frustration that White allowed to boil over publicly was reflected in Indiana's locker room, and in particular, with Catchings, who was clearly agitated after losing what she thought was a winnable game.
"This game was a bloodbath. I've never seen a player of Tamika Catchings' caliber get so disrespected in my life. Never. And to me that's a travesty." Fever coach Stephanie White
"I told our team, we are going to bottle up every sense of frustration, every sense of anger, every sense of knowing what we didn't do and what we didn't accomplish tonight, put that in a bottle and let it explode when we get back home," said Catchings, who on Tuesday tied the league record for postseason games played at 64.
And it was right about then that an already compelling series between two experienced, seasoned teams once again took a turn toward the familiar.
For all of the resistance that players and coaches have put up to comparing this series to 2012, it's playing out in a most interesting way. It was in Game 2 in Minnesota back in 2012 when Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve lost her cool -- in her famous jacket-removal moment -- and Fever coach Lin Dunn complained about officiating and the two teams exchanged barbs upon heading to Indianapolis for Game 3.
This time it was White who had something to say before leaving Minneapolis. And she was primed when she came into the news conference.
"First and foremost, I learned a valuable lesson today," White began. "I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials. Who would have known that?
"Because this game was a bloodbath. I've never seen a player of Tamika Catchings' caliber get so disrespected in my life. Never. And to me that's a travesty."
White was referencing the fact that Reeves discussed openly on Monday that she believed Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen was getting calls and had made changes to her game as a result.
"So one up for the veteran and a lesson learned for the rookie," White said.
Catchings' limited time on the court hampered Indiana on both ends of the floor. She picked up three first-half fouls and didn't score until the first basket of the second half. She was whistled for her fifth foul with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the third quarter and played most of the fourth period on the edge of fouling out.
Indiana had four players in double figures -- led by Briann January with 17 points -- and led by as much as 10 early in the game and nine in the second half before Minnesota pulled ahead late in the third quarter, largely thanks to forcing 14 second-half turnovers.
"Tamika does a lot of things that don't show up on the stat sheet," White said. "So not having her on the floor hurts us in more ways than just her stats."
White said she played Catchings most of the fourth quarter because she didn't have a choice.
"You can't let Minnesota up because they can score so quickly, because they make runs so quickly, you have to have her on the floor," White said. "I certainly trust she's going to do what she can do keep herself from fouling out.
"Honestly, I would have liked to milk a couple more minutes, but I didn't feel like we had a choice."
"We didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. Beyond everything else that went wrong tonight ... we know we didn't take care of business tonight when it came down the stretch." Indiana's Tamika Catchings
Catchings believes the Fever put themselves in a position to win.
"At the end of the day, we are frustrated more so because we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had," Catchings said. "Beyond everything else that went wrong tonight ... we know we didn't take care of business tonight when it came down the stretch."
Catchings said the Fever lost their composure.
"And we are too good for that," she said. "We are too good a team to let things like that detour us and what we're trying to do and what we are trying to accomplish."
In the hallway as she walked back to the locker room, White said she does not believe the officials had an "intent" behind their calls.
"It's a human factor. I don't think things are intentional or there are agendas, but the human factor comes into play," White said. "Officials read things and they hear what people say, just like we do."
Catchings was still steaming, too.
"I think Minnesota came out and they played really, really good," she said. "I think overall, when you look at the heart this team has and what we've accomplished, that says a lot. So when you look at a missed opportunity, I'm shaking because I'm very frustrated."