MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Briann January had 19 points and six assists and the Indiana Fever stole home-court advantage in the WNBA Finals with a 75-69 victory over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 on Sunday.
Marissa Coleman added 16 points and the Fever hit all 16 of their free throws in a rematch of the 2012 finals. Indiana won Game 1 of that series as well en route to the franchise’s only championship.
Maya Moore had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Sylvia Fowles add 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lynx. But Minnesota missed eight free throws and turned the ball over 15 times to drop the opener.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
Veteran Tamika Catchings had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Fever, who never got rattled by Minnesota’s boisterous home crowd.
The Lynx were 19-2 at Target Center in their playoff history, the best winning percentage in the WNBA. One of those defeats came at the hands of the Fever in Game 1 of the 2012 finals.
This one followed a similar script, with the determined and gritty Fever absorbing several haymakers from the Lynx and pushing back each time.
January – the tough-as-nails daughter of a karate instructor who has a black belt herself – led the way. She knocked down two tough jumpers late in the third quarter when the Lynx had pulled within four points and was right there in the end to ice it.
After the Lynx charged back to take a 62-61 lead with 4:28 to play, Coleman hit a 3 and scored on a backdoor cut off an inbounds pass. Then January crossed over Anna Cruz, Minnesota’s best perimeter defender, for a layup and a 68-63 lead.
January added another pull-up jumper before fouling out with 1:12 to play, and the Fever closed out another gutsy road victory.
Seimone Augustus had a quiet nine points on 3-for-11 shooting and Lindsay Whalen only attempted three shots for Minnesota.
The Lynx are playing in their fourth finals in the last five years. They have won two championships, but were stunned by the Fever in 2012, a loss that ultimately prevented what could have been a run of three straight titles. After losing to Phoenix in the Western Conference finals last season, the Lynx avenged the defeat by sweeping the Mercury in the conference finals this year to set up a rematch with the only team to beat them in the finals.
A ragged first quarter ended 10-10, but Moore got going in the second quarter to spark the Lynx. She scored on a finger roll, a steal and a pretty hesitation drive to the basket and also set a great screen to free up Fowles for another layup that gave them a 26-21 lead in the second quarter.
But the Fever weren’t about to back down.
January scored seven straight Indiana points, Catchings got on the board after an 0-for-4 start and Erlana Larkins beat the buzzer with a layup to give Indiana a 35-29 lead at the break.