ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Shavonte Zellous scored 20 points to lead the defending-champion Indiana Fever in an 85-72 victory over the Chicago Sky in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday night.
Briann January and Karima Christmas had 16 points each, Erlana Larkins added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Tamika Catchings scored 11 points for the Fever.
Elena Delle Donne scored 20 points to lead Chicago after receiving the league’s Rookie of the Year award before the game. Epiphanny Prince had 19 points and Sylvia Fowles, selected as the Defensive Player of the Year, added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana, the only playoff team with a losing record in the regular season, was in control for most of the night against the conference’s top seed. Catchings’ basket with 5:36 left in the third quarter gave the Fever a 19-point lead, and the Sky got no closer than 12 the rest of the way against a defense that allowed a league-low 70.5 points per game.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is Sunday in Indianapolis.
The Fever had the league’s lowest shooting percentage at 39.3, but made 51 percent of their shots and had five players score at least 11 points.
For Chicago, it was a disappointing start to the franchise’s first playoff appearance. In their eighth season, the Sky had a team-record 24 wins and led the East by seven games. However, they lost to Indiana for the fourth time in five meetings this year.
The Fever, who lost nine players to injury during the season and four for at least 16 games, were once again without forward Katie Douglas. After appearing in just four regular season games because of a back injury, Douglas did not play after aggravating the injury earlier this week.
The Fever took their first double-digit lead with 6:29 left in the first half when Layshia Clarendon hit a 3-pointer from the right corner, giving Indiana a 37-26 lead. The Fever eventually went up by 15 and held a 50-37 advantage at halftime.
Indiana shot 56.7 percent from the floor during the first half, including 66.7 percent on 3-pointers.