Zellous' play helps fill Douglas void

INDIANAPOLIS -- Shavonte Zellous had a terrific postseason as part of Indiana's 2012 WNBA championship team. But she was determined to make some improvements for 2013.

"I didn't want to be satisfied just with what I did last year," Zellous said after the Fever's 85-72 victory Friday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal with Chicago. "And I wanted to do those things all season, not just in the playoffs. It's about staying hungry and staying after it.

"I went overseas and made a conscious decision that I was going to do whatever I had to do to help [Indiana] when I came back. One thing I struggled with last year was my [3-point shooting]. I put an emphasis on working on that."

This season, Zellous almost doubled her scoring average from 2012, going from 7.5 points per game to 14.7. She had 19 3-pointers in 2012 and 39 in 2013. On Sunday, Zellous was named this season's WNBA most improved player of the year.

"She's become a more consistent offensive-minded player," teammate Tamika Catchings said of Zellous, who hopes to help the Fever close out the series in Game 2 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Zellous' offense has been much needed, as the Fever were without guard/forward Katie Douglas for most of this season because of back problems. Douglas played just four games -- two in May and two in September -- after being reactivated. However, Douglas felt pain again going into the playoffs, and missed Friday's opener.

Indiana coach Lin Dunn said Friday she was hopeful of getting Douglas back during the postseason, but that's not going to happen. The Fever confirmed Saturday the veteran will not return for 2013.

The Fever won the league title in 2012 despite losing Douglas to an ankle injury early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Douglas didn't play in the four-game WNBA Finals, during which Zellous averaged 17.0 points.

Even though they would love to have Douglas on the court, the Fever know they can win without her.

Friday at Chicago, Zellous was 7-of-11 from the field for a team-high 20 points. She made all three of her 3-point shots, and the Fever made 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) from behind the arc.

Considering the Fever are known as a defense-first team, the efficiency of Indiana's offense Friday was particularly good news for Dunn. She has guided a short-handed team all season, but -- Douglas aside -- the Fever are in better shape now than they've been most of the year.

Even though they are the East's No. 4 seed and the only team in the playoffs that had a losing record (16-18), the Fever's performance Friday reminded everyone of the team that won it all last year.

"We came into the game with an attack mentality," Zellous said. "If you start the game off slow, it can come back and bite you. We talked about defense and rebounding all week in practice. We have to go into the game Sunday with the same mentality."